SHERIDAN — Sheridan Junior High School’s new “Don’t Quit” fitness center was revealed Wednesday afternoon.
The National Foundation For Governors’ Fitness Councils awarded $100,000 of improvements in the weight room. Its Chair Jake Steinfeld — best known for Body By Jake workout videos from the 80s — was present for a motivational speech followed by a ribbon cutting.
An energetic crowd of teenage students grew silent as they listened to Steinfeld’s message. Steinfeld recalled being overweight and talking with a stutter in middle school. Lifting weights boosted his confidence and led to a successful career. Steinfeld is a fitness personality and entrepreneur. He cofounded Major League Lacrosse and became chair of the California Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports under Arnold Schwarzenegger. Middle-school-aged youth may know him best for being the voice of Git from Pixar’s Ratatouille — parents may know him from the 1988 film “Coming to America” starring Eddie Murphy.
Physical education teacher Darin Gilbertson was in charge of producing a three-minute video to describe the reasons why $100,000 would be best spent at Sheridan Junior High School. A plethora were submitted in Wyoming, and Sheridan became a recipient along with Arapahoe School and Lander Middle School. Sheridan’s video featured students standing in deep snow. A point was taken that the students have limited outdoor opportunities during the winter at school — its equipment in the fitness center was more than 20 years old.
Gilbertson had a sense of gratitude throughout Wednesday.
“I’ve been emotional all afternoon,” Gilbertson said. “It’s just incredible that someone would gift you $100,000 to make your kids, school and community better. We’ve got Jake in our corner — someone who can give us those kinds of tools. It’s unreal. It’s truly a blessing and I’m humbled because the magnitude of something like this is awesome.”
Wyoming is the 44th state Steinfeld has visited while representing NFGFC in the past 12 years. His visit to Sheridan is one he’ll remember fondly for years to come.
“I’ve done a thousand of these. But this one ranks in my top three of all time,” Steinfeld said. “There is an energy from the students and the teachers along such a caring principle. Everyone from the physical education department, parents, first responders and community leaders have been great. It’s real and authentic and it makes me proud to be a part of.”
Steinfeld described the importance of a fitness center for teenagers in a state like Wyoming.
“We tend to tell kids to stay away from too much junk food and video games. Then they may be wondering, ‘What are we going to do in the winter?’” Steinfeld said. “When you have a fitness center like this — there’s no excuse. It’s a place for the kids well as teachers and their families too. It can become a hub of the community. Over the course of 12 years — the stories remain the same: test scores go up, gang violence goes down and kids are healthy. It’s an upward spiral of success.”
With new equipment and funds to maintain them — Sheridan Junior High School is set for fitness success for many years to come.
“The gift really starts when we leave,” Steinfeld said. “That’s when the cool stuff happens.”