HAMILTON, Mich. (WOOD) — Hamilton Middle School teacher Bill Mousel nearly deleted the email he received from Family Fare telling him he was the June recipient for the One School at a Time grant — he thought it was spam. Now, $1,000 later, he’s grateful he opened it.

“I never am selected for anything like that,” Mousel said.

Mousel is not the average gym teacher. He’s been at Hamilton Schools for the last 34 years and over time, has traded the basketballs, footballs, and ropes-to-the-ceiling, with some more unconventional games like Diamonds and Robbers.

“A lot of times they’ll do like, ‘Okay, we’re gonna do a football unit, we’re gonna do a soccer unit,’ and I don’t do any of that,” Mousel said about the typical gym class. “If you’re playing a game and the game has a little story and we can pretend that we’re involved in that story, then we kind of forget about everything else we’re doing and we’re focusing on the game.”

Those games are part of his Strong Start program. With suggestions from the school’s principal, Mousel created the initiative over five years ago as a way to get the least active kids involved in physical activity.

“Kids come with skills already for those games, and the ones that I want to move, the ones that I’m targeting, they don’t have those skills, so they’re very intimidated,” Mousel said. “I want to try to pick a game that puts us all, as much as possible, on equal footing and then people have a chance. They feel like, ‘OK, I’ve got a chance.'”

Like many teachers, Mousel has had to dip into his own wallet at times to supplement equipment and make these programs possible. This June, he applied and was awarded Family Fare’s One School at a Time grant. The grant is $1,000 awarded monthly to a school, kindergarten through college, that provides the top reason for how they’d best put the money to use. Schools are judged on creativity, community impact, school impact and the plan to execute putting the money to use.

“I’m at least gonna know for a little while that I’m not gonna have to ask and hope that somebody says yes when I have an equipment request,” Mousel said. “It’s gonna make it possible to do a wider variety of things and do them a little bit more effectively. We’re not gonna have to use balls that are falling apart. We wanted to get flag belts that fit function, you know, didn’t fall apart.”

Holland store director Michael Farrell presented Mousel with the $1,000 check at the gym where Mousel’s impact is felt the most.

“Health and wellness is one of our big things and we like to make sure that we support those schools in their activities,” Farrell said.

And that’s Mousel’s direct intent — to create better students by fostering an environment where there’s a positive relationship between exercise and education.

“Even if you come and move a little bit in my class, then you’re gonna leave a little more healthy. Your brain is gonna function better, your blood is gonna be flowing a little bit better. Movement is healthy,” Mousel said.

Those authorized to act on behalf of a school, like teachers and faculty, can learn more about the One School at a Time grant here.