<p>Houston ISD's &ldquo;Love Your Heart&rdquo; initiative will encourage transportation employees to develop heart-healthy habits. General Manager Nathan Graf appeared as the initiative's mascot, Dr. Healthy Hound, at the kickoff celebration.</p>

The Houston Independent School District (HISD) transportation department and the Houston Educational Support Personnel Union (HESP) are teaming up to fight heart disease and encouraging employees to develop healthy lifestyle habits with their “Love Your Heart” initiative.

About 200 employees gathered last week to celebrate the joint effort between the transportation department and HESP to raise awareness on the importance of checking one's heart health. Transportation department General Manager Nathan Graf played the role of Dr. Healthy Hound, the mascot for the initiative.

HISD Interim Superintendent Ken Huewitt, HESP Union President Wretha Thomas, and board trustees Harvin Moore and Rhonda Skillern-Jones were all on hand to support the initiative. Love Your Heart, which includes the transportation staff routinely going on walks together, is currently available to all transportation department employees, with plans to expand into other departments.

“Our health is something that is vital to our existence,” Skillern-Jones said. “I commend both HISD transportation and HESP for coming together and doing this event, and showing they care enough to keep all of us conscious about our health so we can do what we do for our kids on a daily basis.”

Ashley Turner, the daughter of Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, and who serves as chief operating officer for Bee Busy Wellness Center, also attended the event and spoke to attendees about taking small steps toward a healthier lifestyle. Turner said that while she isn’t asking employees to go out and run a marathon, simple changes such as walking for five minutes is all it takes to make a permanent lifestyle change.

The Love Your Heart initiative is just one collaboration between the transportation department and HESP to improve health awareness among district employees. Both groups launched the fitness series “Move It and Lose It” and the Health Conscious Exercise program in 2014. Bus drivers who participated in the Health Conscious Exercise program have shown reduced blood pressure and cholesterol rates, and have passed health physicals in larger numbers than in previous years, according to HESP.

“Those are just some of the small steps you can take to ensure you’re around for your kids and grandkids,” Skillern-Jones told attendees. “I am here to let you all know that I want to see you around being healthy so you can come back to drive our kids safely. In order to do that, we all have to take care of ourselves.”

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