The Geelong Cats teamed with Geelong Regional Libraries to launch the 2022 GMHBA Healthy Heroes story time program on Friday.

Cats players Shaun Higgins, Brandan Parfitt, Maddy McMahon and Darcy Moloney joined dozens of children and their parents for a book reading at Geelong Library & Heritage Centre to launch the Cats’ Grade 1/2 ‘Rising Stars’ program for 2022.

“It’s great to be able to get back out in the community and connect with young people through our Cats Community programs. We’re excited to be able to share a special story time session with young people in Geelong at The Dome,” Higgins said.

“This program is usually delivered online in classrooms around the Geelong region, sharing key messages around the importance of healthy eating, physical activity, sleep, screen time and wellbeing.

“As a club, we love to give back to the community that supports us, and programs like GMHBA Healthy Heroes are our way of making a positive impact in the wider Geelong community.”

GMHBA Healthy Heroes, now in its sixth year, empowers primary school-aged children to live a healthy lifestyle. The program has significantly increased health literacy in participants, with 85 per cent of students participating in the flagship Grade 3/4 program in 2021 registering a positive increase in health knowledge.

The Grade 1/2 ‘Rising Stars’ program, which was added to the GMHBA Healthy Heroes suite as part of its expansion last year, delivers key health messaging through a read-along and accompanying activities.

The program features exclusively Australian authors, and is aligned to Victorian Curriculum. It looks to support teachers in delivering key health messages in the classroom, using Geelong Cats player ambassadors, and empowers parents to be leaders in health messaging for their families and communities.

Friday’s story time launch was also a chance for the program to connect in with parents, ahead of a GMHBA Healthy Heroes parents podcast series that will be released later this year.

“GMHBA Healthy Heroes story time at the Geelong Regional Library is a wonderful opportunity for children and parents to spend quality time together, share in the joy of a good story, and come away feeling inspired by their time with Geelong Cats players,” GMHBA CEO David Greig said.

“We are delighted to support the GMHBA Healthy Heroes program, which delivers on our purpose to support and empower our communities to live healthier lives. As a non-profit, Geelong-based health insurer, GMHBA is invested in supporting young people to develop the skills, behaviour and knowledge they need for a lifetime of exceptional health and wellbeing.

"Our sincere thanks to the Geelong Cats and the Geelong Regional Library for their collaborative and generous approach to supporting the health of our community.”

It is expected the GMHBA Healthy Heroes suite of programs will be delivered into around 100 schools, reaching more than 15,000 students this year.

The Geelong Cats and GMHBA are both committed to making a positive health impact in the wider Geelong community, and are pleased to be able to work with Geelong Regional Libraries for the launch of the 2022 program.

“We are thrilled to partner with the Geelong Cats for this special delivery of the GMHBA Healthy Heroes story time program. Our libraries are inclusive and supportive spaces for our community, and we are happy to see so many children and their families join us today to share the love of reading,” Geelong Regional Library Corporation (GRLC) CEO Vanessa Schernickau said.

“Our purpose is to be a thriving public library service that boosts our communities’ health, prosperity, connectedness and belonging, and we feel this ties in beautifully with the GMHBA Healthy Heroes program.

“The benefits of reading to children are significant and numerous: it improves reading and cognitive skills, is a chance to bond with parents or carers, promotes imagination and creativity, and develops language and emotions. All of these things help contribute to a healthy life, and what a great way for the Geelong Cats and Geelong Regional libraries to provide family fun during the school holidays.”

GMHBA Healthy Heroes is part of Cats Community's Cats Learn pillar of programs, which highlight the importance of healthy eating, active lifestyles, and mental health and wellbeing.