What they said
"Throughout the years, Barb Parnell has been a wealth of information and a great resource when getting funds for P.E./health equipment for our school. ... She is a true resource in the physical education world, and a true inspiration for our community." — South Routt P.E. teacher Artie Weber.
"Barb learns of a wellness need and takes immediate action to create positive change. Her endless enthusiasm and commitment to wellness is unparalleled." — Soda Creek P.E. teacher Shannon Casson.
Wherever there's a new playground, trail or healthy eating initiative popping up in Routt County, chances are Barb Parnell played a pivotal role in it.
Parnell, a community coordinator for LiveWell Northwest Colorado, has made it her daily mission to help residents here live a healthier lifestyle.
She's also helped to secure hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants to support such recent projects as the new playground at Hayden Elementary School and the expansion of physical education curriculum in seven regional school districts.
“I'm into health,” Parnell said Monday outside Bud Werner Memorial Library. “And I feel like physical health is really important because it impacts mental health. If you don't have good phsyical health, your mental health is compromised.”
What started as a career for Parnell as a health psychologist in Steamboat Springs has morphed into one of community activism.
This week, she juggled a meeting with the principals of Strawberry Park and Soda Creek elementary schools to promote a new healthy eating program in classrooms with a meeting with a farmer who wants to help grow healthier produce to donate to LIFT-UP of Routt County.
For all of her efforts, Parnell recently was presented with the President's Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition Community Leadership Award. She is one of only 34 people in the nation this year to receive the honor.
“I'm thankful, of course,” Parnell said. “But I wouldn't have gotten this if we didn't have P.E. teachers who want to see their programs improve and who want to get these grants to improve their programs.”
According to a news release about the award, the PCFSN consists of a group of volunteers who advise President Barack Obama through Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius.
Parnell was nominated for the award by Steamboat Springs Middle School physical education teacher Chris Adams, Soda Creek Elementary P.E. teacher Shannon Casson and South Routt P.E. teacher Artie Weber.
“We're so happy to see her win this award because she's done so much for our schools and our community and our programming,” Adams said. “She's an advocate of wellness, but she's also an advocate of student achievement.”
Parnell has been instrumental in introducing the 5210 Every Day wellness initative in area schools. The program encourages students to eat five servings of fruits and vegetables a day, have no more than two hours of recreational screen time, do at least one hour of physical activity and consume no sugary drinks.
Parnell said she's surprised how much the health initiatives have benefited the community in recent years.
“It's crazy to think about,” she said. “I would have never thought three years ago we would be where we are today.”
To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com