Members of the Oregon State University men’s basketball program visited Liberty Elementary School in Albany on Tuesday morning expecting to punch tickets for the school’s mileage club but ended up signing more autographs.

The team was scheduled to visit the school during its Read Across America event in February but a string of snow days and then games for the Beavers delayed the visit.

“The kids are excited to be out here, it’s good to see smiles on their faces,” said Eli, Glenzel, a junior on the team who grew up about an hour away in Eugene. “We can be role models in Linn and Benton County so we’re talking about fitness today and overall, it’s just been really positive.”

Liberty Principal Tracy Day said it was the first year the mileage club has been at Liberty in her two years at the school. Students can use their recess time to walk or run around the track, earning stamps on paper feet for each lap. The paper is traded in for a plastic foot students can collect on a chain.

Day said some teachers use the club for math lessons and at the end of the year, students are given a bit more perspective.

“We’ll tell them, ‘All of us, collectively could have walked around the world this many times,’” she said.

Approximately 80 kids took to the track Tuesday morning after welcoming the players. Volunteer and program organizer Amy Huskey said that while first- and second-graders usually participate in high numbers, Tuesday’s turnout was slightly higher and kids had her scrambling to check their stamps and dole out plastic feet.

“While researching how to promote activities for improving physical and mental health, it became apparent that we need to understand the relatively new concept of wellness and how providing opportunities to build an individual’s wellness resources can act as a buffer to the inevitable frustrations and stressors occurring in our often chaotic, everyday lives,” a letter to parents describing the Liberty Wellness Initiative read. The initiative is a focus of the Parent Teacher Club this year.

During Tuesday’s visit with OSU players, Huskey said mental and emotional help were also part of the Mileage Club.

“Really, we’re promoting wellness and the inverse relationship is to take preventative steps to fight illness,” she said.

The program, which runs every Tuesday and Thursday, will culminate in a year-end assembly where students will learn their collective mileage total and, according to Day, possibly earn other rewards.

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