About Us


In August of 2003, Capital Health Plan (CHP), a regional HMO developed, a broad-based partnership to create a healthier community by promoting exercise and fitness. The founding partners of the “Stepping Toward Health Coalition” were Capital Health Plan, The Leon County Schools, the Greater Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce, the City of Tallahassee, Florida A&M University, Florida State University, Tallahassee Community College and the Tallahassee Sports Council.

Theses partners shared a strong concern about the mounting evidence that obesity had reached epidemic proportions in our country. With one in four children and nearly one in three adults classified as obese (30% above normal body weight) something had to be done.

Not only was the situation creating a serious healthcare crisis; the severe physical consequences like diabetes, heart disease, lack of energy, weakened joints and poor self-esteem also presented significant economic threats to workforce effectiveness and the future affordability of healthcare.

During a press conference, Florida Department of Health Secretary John Agwanobi and Leon County Schools Superintendent Bill Montford announced a new initiative to address the growing concerns regarding childhood obesity and its long-term effects on future wellness.

Superintendent Montford stated, “Our goal is not to turn every child into an athlete. Simple exercise, like walking or riding a bike, if done on a regular basis can have enormous physical benefits.” He made a commitment to work with every school in Leon County, to develop appropriate wellness based activities, and to improve the health and wellness of Leon County school aged children.

In February 2004 Superintendent Montford held a Town Hall meeting that gathered a standing-room-only crowd of citizens concerned about the future health of our children. A consortium of community leaders also gathered to discuss the growing problem.

In August of 2005, the Leon County School District and Titus Sports Academy agreed to form a partnership to pilot a student fitness program during the extended-day hours of the school day. The focus of the program was to provide students with developmental physical activity by incorporating training principles used at Titus Sports Academy.

The overall goal was to develop a fitness program for students to improve their health and promote life-long wellness.

In addition, this partnership effort met the LCS District’s Wellness Policy statements for physical activity and community partnerships.

In July of 2006, the Leon County School Board continued their efforts to support community partnerships and approved a fitness training program to be implemented in all Leon County schools over a two-year period. This program would be called CHP CHAMPIONS and it would be administered by World Class Schools, a not-for-profit organization formed by the Greater Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce as part of a community-wide initiative sponsored by Capital Health Plan.

The CHP CHAMPIONS pilot program was launched in 2005 as a way to improve a child’s five physical qualities, which include:

• Flexibility/Mobility

• Strength

• Speed

• Agility

• Endurance

In 2006, with seven schools from Leon County (Tallahassee) Florida, a partnership between Capital Health Plan (HMO), TITUS Sports Academy, Leon County Schools and World Class Schools of the Greater Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce.

In 2009, CHP CHAMPIONS expanded into Gadsden, Jefferson and Wakulla counties, increasing participation from 5,000 to over 12,000 participants in 2011.

The 2012-2013 school year drew over 16,500 participants, making CHAMPIONS one of the largest physical activity program in the world.



Read about the documented economic and social benefits of the CHAMPIONS program here:

Economic and Social Benefits of the CHAMPIONS School Fitness Program (PDF)

A by-the-numbers look at how CHAMPIONS is knocking down childhood obesity (PDF)

In an effort to quantify the immediate and long-term health impact of the CHAMPIONS program, the following researchers have been assembled:

Patty Freedson, Ph.D., University of Massachusetts-Amherst, specializing in exercise physiology, fitness and physical activity assessments, and pediatric exercise physiology. Since 2008, Patty has recommended the evaluation and measurement strategy for CHAMPIONS, as well as leading the overall scope design of the scientific research study.

Russell Pate, Ph.D., University of South Carolina, specializing in exercise physiology and the public policy agenda around childhood physical activity, and the national health implications of physical activity. From 2010, Russ has been one of the four key researchers involved in the CHAMPIONS scientific study. He is certified by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM).

Maureen Weiss, Ph.D., University of Minnesota, specializing in psychological and social development of children through participation in sports and other physical activities, with specific interest in self-perceptions, motivation, moral development, and the influence of parents, coaches, and peers on youth participation and development. Since early 2010, Maureen has assisted in defining the impact CHAMPIONS has on self efficacy and long-term behavior change.

Stewart Trost, Ph.D., Oregon State University, specializing in the assessment of psychosocial and environmental determinants of physical activity behavior in young children and adolescents. Stewart’s involvement started in 2010, and he has been instrumental in providing cutting-edge ideas and insight in to the Early Learning and Head Start (pre-K populations) intervention model.

Dan Benardot, Ph.D., Georgia State University, specializing in human nutrition and health planning with emphasis on nutrient timing, caloric distribution, and within-day energy balance. Dan as been part of CHAMPIONS since 2008 as the nutritional advisor. He is recognized internationally as a leader in nutrition and solutions to track and assess nutrition-based interventions.

Jim Rauschenbach, Ph.D., Southern Connecticut State University, specializing in physical education and the integration of tactical game-play within fitness solutions. Since 2009, Jim has served in blending our physical quality development model with state and federal physical education curriculum. He is certified by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM).