More than two years ago a small committee of employees met together to discuss offering wellness incentives for our Conway Schools employees. Spearheaded by our Assistant Athletic Director Janet Taylor, we wanted to see what the possibilities were for a Staff Wellness Program. We began looking at programs offered by other employers. We spent time meeting together and hearing from them. We met with national-award winning Wellness Coordinator Jayme Mayo from Nabholz, who inspired us with both her results and her unending perseverance. We learned so much from her trial and error and were encouraged by her "never give up" mindset. We spent time with folks from Conway Regional Health System, who implemented their wellness program, then shared their wisdom and resources with us. We looked at state agencies and other school districts. What were they doing? What worked and what didn’t? How did they motivate employees? What were their measures of success? Then our committee spent hours and hours around a table discussing. What could we do? What would our employees like? What would they not like? What would motivate people to actually change their behavior? (or at least maintain it?) What would be our incentives? How would we pay for it? How would we keep track of all 1,200 employees? Who would do it? We came up with one plan and then encountered an obstacle. Then Plan B. That wouldn’t work either. Plan E finally seemed feasible. Then we had our last big setback. And just when it seemed that we might never get our Staff Wellness Program off the ground…it happened.

I’m so proud to announce that the Conway Public Schools’ Staff Wellness Program- Wampus Cat Wellness- sponsored by Conway Regional Health System- is now officially in place. We had about 200 staff members attend the kickoff last week and even more have signed up for the program. Once they sign up, they begin earning "points" toward incentives each 9 weeks. Our incentives are cash prizes (issued as checks, much like a Christmas bonus) given to the employees at the end of the 9 weeks, or at various wellness events. Each Wellness Program participant receives a booklet that explains the points breakdown and has a tracking "sheet" (exercise log). Points are given for all sorts of things. For example, attending the kickoff, getting a flu shot, not missing a sick day, attending "Wellness Wednesday" workshops which will include healthy cooking classes, Zumba and other exercise classes, etc. and of course daily exercise. The number of points a participant earns each 9 weeks will determine how many times his/her name goes in the drawing—and determines how many chances he/she has to win.

Staff Wellness participants also receive other benefits- including discounted fitness center memberships- for participating. We are planning several district-wide wellness events, even our first annual 5K/1Mile Run/Walk this week. At each big event this first year, we will also be giving away a cash (check) prize to drum up support and get everyone excited about our program.

Wampus Cat Wellness is designed to appeal to ALL employees. It will reward those die-hard exercisers who have already been making healthy choices. The people who get up early every morning to exercise and eat a kale salad for lunch each day. These people sometimes wonder if anyone notices that they are doing things the "right way." We do. Here is a token of our appreciation. But the program also offers incentives for folks who have been looking for motivation to take those first steps in the right direction. To join with a friend down the hall and walk for 15 minutes after school. To choose the healthy option at lunch. A few small changes that will add up to a big difference over time. This will give people accountability and a reason to change. And it will have a literal pay off for some lucky winners!

Community support is key in this program and we are so grateful to Conway Regional Health System for their partnership. In addition, we are lucky to have an entire community ready to rally around our employees in this effort. We are looking forward to reporting exciting results from these efforts in the years to come.

Heather Kendrick is the Communication Specialist for Conway Public Schools. Contact her at (501) 450-4800 or log onto