OVERLAND PARK, KS -- Phil Lawler touched the hearts of the recipients of the Carol M. White Physical Education Program (PEP) grants last week during the second annual PE4life PEP Grant Resource Conference at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City.

Lawler, the director of education and outreach for PE4life who also serves as the director of the PE4life Academy in Naperville, IL, spoke highly of Carol M. White, a former top aide to Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens. White was in charge of writing the language of the PEP grant, yet many PEP grant winners do not know who she is, Lawler says. The grant was re-named for White in 2002.

White has been battling brain cancer and was not able to attend the conference. Because of White’s condition, Lawler and she have developed a close bond. Lawler has survived cancer three times.

“Carol wanted to be here in the worst way,” Lawler told the attendees. Before the conference, Lawler said that White left a message for him, saying, “Tell that group today, congratulations.”

The federal government provides PEP grants to initiate, expand and improve physical education programs for K-12 students in order to help them make progress toward meeting state standards for physical education. Funds may be used to provide equipment and support to enable students to participate in physical education activities. Funds also may support staff and teacher training and education.

The conference attracted 180 people from around the country representing 47 school districts, schools and organizations, most of which have received PEP grants. Some attendees came to the conference to learn more about applying for PEP grants.

Lawler told the attendees that most physical education programs have failed to keep children healthy and that some school administrators are holding P.E. teachers accountable.

“I’m glad we failed,” Lawler said, “because failure is the first step to success. If the school administrators wouldn’t have started to hold us accountable, we’d be doing the same things we’ve always done. We’d still be trying dodge ball, recess and rope climb. Unfortunately, in most school systems, administrators don’t care about P.E.”

Lawler challenged the PEP grant recipients to “change the script” of their physical education programs and to improve the quality of children's lives through physical education. Before Lawler left the podium to a standing ovation, he said, “I hope you walk back with a passion, and when you get back to your community, think about Carol White.”