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Millions go crazy for gym class game from Indy teacher

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A local teacher has gone viral after posting a video of a gym class game.

Eric Branch with Lowell Elementary School posted a video of a game called “Hoop Hop Showdown” a week ago. Since then, the video has racked up more than 10 million views on Facebook.

“I love the reaction that it’s gotten,” Branch says. “I think what’s most powerful about it is not the game itself, but the kids and the energy that they have in the video.”

It’s only a one-minute long video, but it shows the kids absolutely losing their minds during the competition.

Branch, who has been with the school for eight years, said the idea for the game came over the summer when a colleague showed him something similar. From there, adjustments were made and “Hoop Hop Showdown” was born.

The game starts with hula hoops being placed in a path along the gym floor. The class then divides into two halves, with each half going to a different end of the path. Kids will then hop from hoop-to-hoop until members of each half meet face-to-face. When the players meet, they square off in a game of “Rock, Paper, Scissors,” until there is a victor. The loser returns to the back of their line and is replaced by the next person in their line. The winner continues along the hula hoop path until another opponent meets them.

If a player makes it all they way to the end of the path and wins one final game of “Rock, Paper, Scissors,” that person is the winner.

While the game is actually designed as an individual sport, the kids supported each other throughout and essentially turned it into a team activity.

“The way they bought into it was incredible because they were supporting each other as if they were all teammates,” Branch says.

Branch says the game is incredibly difficult to finish, with class ending sometimes without a winner.

Branch says he’s been contacted or featured by ESPN, Sports Illustrated, Bleacher Report and Barstool Sports.

Will you see the game eventually featured on The Ocho, ESPN’s ode to the fictional network from the movie Dodgeball?

“That would be close to a life goal,” Branch says. “If that could happen, oh my gosh, that would be incredible.”

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Hamilton County’s ‘Wellness Unit’ part of nationwide effort to improve mental health among officers

NOBLESVILLE, Ind. (WISH) — An initiative to improve employee well-being at the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office is among a spate of efforts across the nation to address mental health concerns among officers.

Sheriff Dennis Quakenbush announced the department’s new “Wellness Unit”  — devoted to the physical, mental and spiritual health of its deputies, correctional officers and civilian employees — Friday in a Facebook post.

“Our guys really care about the public,” he said Monday in an interview with News 8. “When you see somebody who’s injured or victimized, it really impacts us… We’re only human.”

The Wellness Unit launched in January with funding approved by county council members and commissioners.

Appointments are held off-site at undisclosed locations to protect the privacy of employees. Supervisors are not briefed on which employees seek counseling or what they discuss during sessions.

Information gathered during counseling sessions will not be used to demote or discipline employees, and will only be disclosed if required by law, including when somebody poses an immediate danger to themselves or others.

The department’s entire staff will receive training related to suicide prevention, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, critical incidents, addiction, mindfulness and officer wellness, the sheriff said.

Nearly 1 in 4 police officers has thoughts of suicide at some point in their life, according to the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI); the suicide rate for police officers is four times higher than the rate for firefighters.

Years of daily exposure to stress, trauma and tragedy can have other devastating consequences if appropriate coping skills are not developed, according to Susan Sherer-Vincent, a licensed clinical social worker, certified alcoholism counselor and licensed marriage and family therapist involved in launching the Wellness Unit.

“Think of the hurricanes that come in, in Florida, and think of the palm trees where they bend,” she explained. “But then, what happens afterwards? They go back up. That’s called resilience. We want our officers to bend, not break.”

Until approximately 3 to 5 years ago, officers were often conditioned to “pull [themselves] up by the bootstraps and go to the next call” instead of addressing personal struggles, Sherer-Vincent said.

Cultivating resiliency can be difficult within a law enforcement culture that equates mental health challenges with “weakness,” she said.

“[Officers] are trained to have the warrior mentality,” Sherer-Vincent told News 8. “Truly, they would have been made fun of [in the past for seeking counseling].”

She compared strong, silent officers with underdeveloped coping skills to California’s famed redwood trees.

“They’re pretty sturdy. But what would happen if you took an ax and hit those every single day, day after day, for years? They would eventually fall,” she said.

Quakenbush credits his wife, church and non-law enforcement friends with providing “a really good support system.”

“But sometimes, you need a professional,” he said, urging employees to “talk through” negative emotions instead of turning to alcohol and other substances for temporary relief.

Several internal cases that resulted in disciplinary action during his year-long tenure as sheriff may have been prevented with wellness-focused intervention, Quakenbush said.

He was unable to comment on personnel matters. 

Sources within the department indicated some of the cases involved employees with substance abuse issues that had escalated over time, possibly as a result of work-related stress that had gone unaddressed. 

“I wouldn’t say that [disciplinary action] was happening often,” Quakenbush told News 8. “But seeing it happen and knowing that we probably could have done something about it made it impactful and something that we wanted to make a priority.”

Hamilton County announced its Wellness Unit days after New York City police officials revealed plans to hire a team of psychologists to combat a spike in officer suicides.

On Feb. 13, Indianapolis police officials said they planned to swear in the department’s first full-time therapy dog by the end of March.

  • FIND SUPPORT: Learn more about supporting law enforcement wellness on NAMI.org

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