Some Carter County leaders and a professor from East Tennessee State University made the trip Thursday morning up to the high country above Watauga Lake to celebrate.
Josh McKinney, chairman of GROW Carter County, said the water bottle refilling station will make an impact on the environment and the students’ health for years to come. The purchase of the station was made possible from grant monies that were issued from the Governor’s Foundation for Health and Wellness as a result of efforts driven by GROW Carter County, a Healthier Tennessee community-based group working to improve the health and well-being of all Carter Countians. McKinney said that through various projects, GROW Carter County is working to help people move more, eat smarter and cut out tobacco.
“Healthier Tennessee is dedicated to enabling and encouraging Tennesseans to live healthier lives,” said Kayla Smith, regional director for the Governor’s Foundation for Health and Wellness. “Sugary drinks are a major contributor to the obesity epidemic, and Tennessee has the most obese youth in the nation. The water bottle refilling station provided by the GROW Carter County Healthier Tennessee Communities group will provide easy access to filtered water for the youth of the Little Milligan community, and promote water consumption over sugary sweetened beverages at the elementary school. ”
To go along with the filling station, Ballad Health and Sycamore Shoals Hospital donated 200 sturdy water bottles for the students and staff.
Corey Paulson, director of marketing and communications at Sycamore Shoals Hospital, attended the Thursday morning meeting along with McKinney, Carter County Commissioner Robert Acuff, and several others, including Professor Tony Delucia of ETSU’s Quillen College of Medicine, Emily Brooks, of the Carter County Health Department, and Crystal Carter, community impact coordinator for the United Way of Elizabethton/Carter County.
During the presentation of the bottles to the students, Little Milligan Principal J.R. Campbell conducted a ldemonstration for the guests on just how important water is to the students. He simply asked the students to stand up if their home’s water was supplied by a well. Quite a few students stood up. He then asked how many students were dependent on springs for their family home. Another large group stood up. Campbell then asked how many of the homes had problems during the past drought. A large number stood up again. Finally, he asked how many students had their waterlines freeze during the recent frigid winters. Many more stood.
Campbell then said what a blessing it was when public water lines were extended to parts of the district as part of a Watauga River Regional Water Authority project.
As the students filled their new water bottles for the first time, they appeared to be very appreciative of a very simple thing that most elementary students take for granted.