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Oak Pointe Elementary student wins healthy eating poster contest

As Jordan Brideau sat cross-legged on the commons floor listening to her principal announce birthdays, she thought she was attending a routine Friday morning meeting at Oak Pointe Elementary.

Jordan, a fourth-grader, had no inkling that she was about to meet a television commercial celebrity, much less that she was about to become a bit of a star herself.

Jared Fogle, the man who lost 245 pounds featured on Subway commercials, appeared at Friday's gathering and announced that one of Oak Pointe's students had won the Subway Fresh Fit Video and Poster Competition.

More than 1,000 students in the Midlands submitted entries to show how they stay healthy and fit, and 10 winners were selected - with at least three from area schools being recognized.

The contest was intended to help educate students about healthy lifestyle choices in an effort to combat childhood obesity.

While Fogle talked about his own weight struggle, Jordan wondered: "Could it be me?"

A few minutes later, after Fogle encouraged students to adopt healthy lifestyles and make healthy choices, Jordan was called up to help Fogle remove the black cloak hiding her winning poster.

Jordan's poster showed a neighborhood brimming with activity. A girl rode a bike, while another turned cartwheels - much like she and her sister do, according to Tina Brideau, Jordan's mother.

A man - whom Jordan identified as her father, Joe - swam in a pool. Athletic equipment decorated the poster around other activities and the words, "Be #1 Exercise is Fun. "

"I started drawing the swimming pool and sidewalk first," said Jordan, who worked several days on the poster. Her mother knew it was for a contest, but not Dad. "I saw it sitting around but I thought it was just a piece of artwork," Joe Brideau said.

He had no idea it was a piece of artwork that would win his family $1,000 worth of Subway gift cards and Oak Pointe Elementary a $1,000 fitness grant.

Oak Pointe Principal Jim Stephens was excited for Jordan and his school. He encouraged his students to keep entering contests.

"We believe in taking a child's talent and giving them an opportunity to succeed with it," he said. Jordan had no idea how many Subway sandwiches $1,000 will buy, but she asked her mother if they could get a start on it the next day.

"I can't go tonight because I'm going to an ice skating party," she explained. Most of the students at Oak Pointe raised their hands when asked if they recognized Fogle from Subway commercials.

"I've been doing Subway ads for 11 years," he said, noting that for most of the kids sitting there, that was their entire lives.

But, he wasn't always a model of healthy living, he told them.

"Unfortunately, I made a lot of bad decisions about my health when I was a kid."

When Fogle showed the students the 60-inch-waist pants he once wore when he weighed 425 pounds, there was a collective, "Whoa!" Then he asked students four questions: How many of them liked to watch TV? Play video games? Go on the Internet? Eat junk food?

Not surprisingly, most hands were raised for all four questions.

Fogle then explained those were the four main reasons he had gained weight when he was young. "I started living a very inactive life," he said. "I loved junk food. If had a lot of sugar and a lot of calories in it, I wanted to eat it."

He told students how being obese adversely affected his life, lowering his self-esteem, grades and his ability to do many activities. He tried and failed several ways to lose weight before coming up with a plan on his own, one that included eating two Subway sandwiches a day.

Now, Fogle makes commercials for Subway and spends about 200 days a year traveling to tell his story.

"I love coming to schools because I really think kids like you need to hear my message," he said. "Every single day, you need to make good, healthy choices."

Sarah Grace Powell, a fourth-grader at Chapin Elementary and Emily Jackson, a fifth-grader at Batesburg-Leesville Elementary, won runners-up prizes in the contest, each earning a $100 Subway gift card.

- Lezlie Patterson for Lexington-Richland 5