CHARLOTTE – For students at Beverly Woods Elementary School, the chance to interact with Carolina Panthers players made for a day they won't soon forget.
Even after the memories fade, the benefits of the day will not.
Panthers offensive linemen Jordan Gross and Travelle Wharton were on hand Tuesday for a multi-faceted celebration of Beverly Woods' designation as a Play 60 Super School by the NFL.
As the winning school out of more than 220 that entered from around the region, the school earned the visit by the Panthers but also a grant for $10,000 to help with physical fitness. The school, which organized an ongoing walk-to-school program to demonstrate its commitment to fitness, was one of 34 honored nationwide.
"We put a proposal together that we would take this money to improve our playground facilities," said Liz Daniel, a parent volunteer who co-authored the school's grant proposal. "Beverly Woods is an inclusion school – we have roughly 100 students who have some sort of developmental delay or disability. We like to have our whole school population do things together, but our playground isn't very handicap accessible."
The grant from the NFL will help improve the playground, Daniel said, as well as help a parenting series featuring guest speakers.
While Beverly Woods' students will benefit from that down the line, that wasn't what was on their mind Tuesday. They were focused on a pep rally featuring the Panthers, which included a high-energy game show during which a couple of female teachers raced to dress up as Panthers.
Along the way, the students also learned how many times an average person's heart beats in a day (100,000) and how many gallons of milk a North Carolina dairy cow produces in a day (eight, versus the national average of six).
In the end, Gross' team triumphed.
"You can't help but have fun when you're around kids and this much excitement," Gross said. "Really I feel like we're the ones that are gaining the most from this, seeing the kids cheering and wearing their Panthers uniforms, and also being excited about exercising and eating right. It means a lot to be a part of it."
Following the pep rally, selected students nominated by their teachers for good sportsmanship joined Gross and Wharton in the school gym for the "ultimate P.E. class." Gross got the ball rolling at the Touchdown Celebration Station, and Wharton served as quarterback in the Wide Receiver Challenge.
"To see their faces and interacting with them and having a good time with them, it's just a great feeling," Wharton said. "And it's very important to educate the kids about health, fitness and getting out and playing."
A week ago, Panthers players Everette Brown and David Gettis paid a visit to one of the region's runner-up schools, Randolph Middle School, for a similar celebration. Randolph Middle School helped the Panthers produce a "Back to Football" video at the start of the season.