McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — By organizing community walks and encouraging residents to get out and get fit, several South Texas border cities have won a statewide health and physical challenge the past few three years.
McAllen, which has won the past three years, hopes to once again win this year’s Community Challenge, which started Monday and runs eight weeks through Feb. 28. It’s free and is sponsored by the Austin-based nonprofit organization It’s Time Texas. But winning this year will be decidedly different with social distancing guidelines and the coronavirus pandemic still overshadowing how everyone lives.
Nevertheless, it’s even more important for folks to be fit to help ward off the virus, and the city’s mayor is confident his city will win the challenge again and it will help elevate the community’s health.
In an email Monday to the McAllen Mayor’s Wellness Council, McAllen Mayor Jim Darling wrote: “Hi it’s Mayor Jim Darling and I want to thank you for all you’ve done — but we aren’t finished yet so tie your sneakers and let’s kick some butt and bring another trophy home to our great city of McAllen. We can do this !!!!”
On Tuesday, McAllen had already accumulated over 1.8 million points and was not only leading in the large-city category but also the entire state, according to the digital app that tracks the points.
Other South Texas cities also seemed to take an early lead. The city of Los Fresnos, in Cameron County, was third in the small-city category; Edinburg, in Hidalgo County, was fifth; and the Gulf Coast city of Brownsville was seventh, both in the large-city category.
Points are earned as citizens from respective communities sign up and log in as they participate in healthy activities, such as running, walking, dog-walking, cycling, drinking more water and eating nutritious meals and snacks, and even taking part in educative workplace seminars on how to stay fit. There is no limit to the daily number of activities one can participate in, and all activities are logged into a new free app, which was launched this year.
“There’s never been a more important time for us to be proactive about our health and really taking care of our health has to be No. 1 and this challenge is an opportunity to do that — to be more physically active and to eat healthier,” Tracy Walker, It’s Time Texas senior director of marketing and events, told Border Report on Tuesday. “Because when we do those things we are more apt to be in a position to fight off viruses and chronic disease.”
Promoting and fostering health and fitness is especially necessary for these border communities that have been hit extremely hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, Walker said.
Hidalgo County has had over 52,650 coronavirus-related cases and has been among the top-three Texas counties for COVID-19 fatalities since the summer, according to the state. Hidalgo County officials Tuesday reported 10 more deaths, bringing the total deaths to 2,218. Cameron County has had 30,292 cases and 1,187 coronavirus-related deaths.
With many people still working from home and social distancing guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control, virtually encouraging one another to stay healthy during this pandemic is so important right now, Walker said.
The new app allows participants to post and view photos of others engaging in healthy activities and to even given high fives and virtual accolades.
“It’s important to recognize what we can do safely together and ‘together’ can look differently right now, and to foster a little more of that togetherness,” Walker said.
Last year, over 400 communities participated in the challenge. But McAllen was the big winner raking in over 6.5 million points.
Darling told Border Report on Tuesday that he’s confident his city will bring home the win, once again. But he added that it’s not just bragging rights they want, it’s healthier citizens to help fight this deadly virus and to reduce obesity rates in this South Texas city, which has been among the most obese metroplexes in the United States for several consecutive years.
“It’s important generally because we want to be proud of our town and specifically it gets our citizens interested in being healthy (and having fun doing it),” Darling said.
Click here for more information on how to register for the free Community Challenge.