Mayor Norie Gonzalez Garza announced that Mission signed a commitment to participate in the It’s Time Texas Community Challenge — a statewide health and wellness program encouraging Texans to get active.
It’s Time Texas is a nonprofit organization that champions a culture of health in Texas by promoting physical activity, nourishing eating habits and optimal water consumption. ITT provides grants and deploys resources to community-based organizations in need. The grant funds support their Mission to make Texas healthier and remove barriers to access that prevent better wellness habits. The org also holds annual events motivating Texans to adopt a healthier lifestyle.
At the start of each calendar year, ITT coordinates the Community Challenge — eight consecutive weeks where Texans compete against each other to see who can accumulate the most points through consistent health and wellness practices. This year, Mission is throwing its hat in the race.
“It’s been around for a while but we haven’t done it,” the Mission mayor said. “We hadn’t jumped in the pool but [now] we have jumped in with both feet and we’re going to win.”
The challenge runs Jan. 9 – March 5. Missionites can join by downloading the It’s Time Texas Community Challenge app. Users create an account, set up their profile and input their daily activities such as step count, exercises, food intake and water consumption. The app tracks user progress, and each health action increases the challengers’ points to move them up the leaderboard. The app and program are free, and people can enter the challenge as a Mission community member or with their employer or school district.
ITT offers weekly participation incentives and a grand prize for challengers with the highest points. Rewards include gift cards to businesses such as H-E-B and Academy Sports.
Gonzalez Garza said the city plans to have free, coordinated events for the community, such as a walk with the council, yoga in the park, a family fitness day at the hike and bike trail and friendly competition between the Mission Police and Fire departments. There are no official dates yet for any events, but the mayor and Events Manager Amy Tijerina will meet next week to discuss details.
With more than 25 parks in the community and two swimming pools, Gonzalez Garza said Missionites have many amenities to find an enjoyable activity for the challenge.
In recent years, Mission has made several additions to its parks, including a 16-court tennis center and two dog parks. In September 2022, Mission unveiled a new Fitness Court at Hollis Rutledge Park — an outdoor gym with workout stations for bodyweight circuit training. Gonzalez Garza said the city applied for another grant to install a Fitness Court at another location. Additionally, the city is working on the long-awaited all-inclusive Lions Park, which is in the early stages of construction.
Currently, Mission is categorized as a medium-sized community and ranks fourth in the state, behind Pharr, Baytown and Harlingen. Weslaco is ranked fifth.
Harlingen has won first place in previous years, in addition to McAllen, which is categorized as a large community and is ranked first. But Gonzalez Garza hopes to compete with the former champs.
“We’re going to make a really good effort to bring home the gold,” Gonzalez Garza said. “I think it’s just important to bring awareness to a healthier lifestyle. Of course that will increase our quality of life, and that’s one of the things that I want to do for our city.”
The Mission mayor said walking is her preferred exercise. She began walking in February 2022, and now she walks three days a week, six miles each day. Gonzalez Garza said she saw changes in her health and energy levels after incorporating a walk into her weekly routine. It was her idea that Mission join the ITT Challenge, and she hopes to lead the community in this aspect as well.
“It is difficult maybe the first few times but after you get the rhythm, your body is OK and wants to get out there and do the walking. And you just feel so much better after,” she said. “I was not an athlete when I was a kid but this is something new in my life and I’m 63 years old. It’s never too late to start.”