Rising to the Commuter Challenge

Brown Betty parked outside the PacificSource office in Helena, MT

Brown Betty parked outside the PacificSource office in Helena, MT

If you happened to be standing at the corner of 14th Street and Main Street in Helena this morning, you might have heard a faint “wwweeeeeee!” as a brown blur buzzed by. That was me, happily zipping down the hill on my bike headed to work. My excitement was because I love going downhill and today was the first day of the Bike Walk Helena Commuter Challenge!

This is my third year participating in Helena’s bike or walk to work challenge that encourages Helenians to park their cars and get on a bike or tie on some sneakers for their daily commute. My goal this year is to commute 19 work days in May. (Two work days I’ll be traveling out of town and I won’t be headed to work on Memorial Day.)

To stay motivated, I’m reminding myself of a few of the benefits of biking or walking to work:

  • I get 30 minutes of extra exercise in my day.
  • I start my day happier and ready to be productive because I’ve gotten my heart rate up and my thinking juices flowing.
  • I get the time to admire the signs of spring like the lilacs and flowing crab trees on my route.
  • I get access to commuter challenge perks like free coffee on Mondays and free tacos on Tuesdays.

May is National Bike Month which means there are commuter challenges happening all over the country. Here are just a few:

No challenge in your area? Join the National Bike Challenge that runs May 1 to September 30 and tell us how you do. Happy commuting!

Veggie U expands to Montana

This spring Montana fourth graders got up close and personal with seeds, shoots, soil and even worms thanks to the Veggie U program. Six classes of fourth grade students across the state received a Veggie U kit that contained all the necessary tools to grow vegetables and learn about healthy eating. PacificSource started funding this program in 2010 in Oregon and Idaho and we were excited to expand it to Montana this year.

Students from Ms. Alberts’ fourth grade class at Kessler Elementary in Helena shared their favorite parts of the program. Check out the video below.

After their hands on experience planting, growing and harvesting vegetables, we’re hopeful that these students will continue to try vegetables and other new healthy foods.

If you’d like to nominate a classroom in your area to receive a Veggie U kit, complete this nomination form to tell us why your teacher and classroom would be a good fit for Veggie U.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Rewarding a Great Idea from a Helena Teacher

Ms. Erickson and her Great Ideas Grant check

Ms. Erickson accepting her Great Ideas Grant check

Montana middle school gym teacher Janet Erickson is always looking for creative ways to get her students and fellow teachers moving and active. In particular, she’s been dreaming about getting a set of Nordic Walking Poles for the Helena Middle School community. Now thanks to a grant from the Helena Education Foundation, her dream is becoming a reality!

The Helena Education Foundation, with support from private donors has the goal of enriching education in the Helena Public Schools with programs like the “Great Ideas Grants”. These grants put money directly into the hands of classroom teachers, helping educators take ideas for innovative teaching strategies and make them a reality.

Here’s what Nordic Walking Poles look like in action

This fall, PacificSource Health Plans was proud to sponsor Janet Erickson’s “700 Healthy Helena Hearts” Great Ideas Grant. Ms. Erickson’s plan will engage middle school students in a total-body conditioning program using Nordic Walking Poles, which simulate the benefits of cross-county skiing and engages the entire upper body muscle system. This activity burns 40% more calories than walking and stimulates the brain to improve cognitive functions. Nordic walking training will take place in PE classes and activities will be offered before school, during lunch and after school for the more than 700 students and teachers at Helena Middle School to enhance their exercise regime and improve their health.

Here’s a video of Ms. Erickson sharing the good news with her students. We were thrilled to be there to present the check.


Congratulations to Ms. Erickson and we at PacificSource looking forward to seeing the 700 Healthy Helena Hearts in action!