School of Applied Sciences

The University of Mississippi

Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation Gives $326,000 to Rebel Well Initiative

Posted on February 1st, 2016 by staff

OXFORD, Miss. – The Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation has awarded the University of Mississippi $326,000 for a second period of the RebelWell initiative for many new health and wellness programs that extend into the local schools and communities.

The foundation presented the university with a check during the Jan. 27 Ole Miss men’s basketball game against Auburn. The money will help fund programs through RebelWell, which offers a wide range of opportunities to become educated about living a healthy lifestyle and also offers group fitness classes, cooking demonstrations and nutrition counseling, among other services.

“The Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation is committed to supporting wellness programs designed to enhance health and quality of life for Mississippians,” said Sheila Grogan, executive director of the Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation. “We’re proud to partner with the University of Mississippi and its efforts to promote healthy lifestyle habits to its students, staff and faculty and to the local schools and communities through the RebelWell initiative.”

The grant positions the university to continue its work and also achieve its wellness goals, said Andrea M. Jekabsons, UM assistant director of employment, development and engagement who serves as the project lead with RebelWell.

“The University of Mississippi remains dedicated to the vision of promoting and advancing health, nutrition, exercise and individual wellness among all, and educating and fostering a community that is committed to a healthy lifestyle,” Jekabsons said. “The RebelWell and Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation co-brand has become very recognizable, and the population it serves is responding very positively.”

The Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation awarded the University of Mississippi $326,000 for new health and wellness programs on campus that extends into the local schools and communities.

In 2015, UM was named one of Mississippi’s Healthiest Workplaces for 2015 by the Mississippi Business Journal, the Mississippi Business Group on Health and the Mississippi Department of Health. The American Heart Association has also consistently recognized UM as a “Fit Friendly” employer either at the gold or platinum level since 2009.

Campus health programs had benefited from a $250,000 wellness grant from the foundation in 2014. The latest award from the foundation brings the total to $575,000.

Grant funds will be used for nutrition educational expenses and to buy physical activity equipment and supplies. Some of the money also will help buy educational equipment for school-age children and promotional items and funding for campaigns, contracted services, community programs and sponsorships for major events. There’s also funding for fresh fruit for school programs and a national certification for a strength program aimed at women over 40.

RebelWell will offer nutrition education through counseling sessions, seminars and demonstrations and also execute programs to highlight local wellness role models.

Promotional materials will be produced co-branded with RebelWell and Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation logos. Those items will serve as reminders for wellness habits and healthy choices, promotion of physical fitness opportunities and scheduled events, fairs, screenings and challenges both on and off campus.

One new development is that the Mayor’s Council for Wellness and the RebelWell Community Advisory Board will merge. The projects will continue to be promoted on the RebelWell Web page and also on social media.

“We are extremely excited to continue our partnership with the Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation for campus and community health and wellness,” said John C. “Jay” Garner, UM chair and associate professor of health, exercise science and recreation management who serves as the faculty representative and a project lead for RebelWell. “The renewal of the project funding will allow us to expand all areas of our initial project and implement strategies and research efforts developed from the original cycle.”

Brandi Hephner LaBanc, UM vice chancellor for student affairs, has been appointed to oversee the program with the assistance of two project leads. Hephner LaBanc will work with the RebelWell committee, which has members from a diverse group of campus, community and school representatives.

The committee consists of four subcommittees: physical activity, nutrition, general well-being (balance) and communications. Each subcommittee is charged with carrying out at least three wellness initiatives or programs.

“Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation has given the LOU community a wonderful gift: the gift of wellness,” Hephner LaBanc said. “I am proud to work alongside my colleagues to envision, design and implement engaging programs and outreach initiatives that benefit us all.

“I talk with folks each week that have enjoyed this program on one level or another. Thanks to the Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation support, wellness is here to stay at UM.”

UM continues to make strides in creating a wellness culture on campus and in the local community, Jekabsons said.

“Relationships are formed with community leaders, health care partners and the school districts,” she said. “These relationships will be instrumental in launching further programs in the community and at the school district.”

The Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation works to build a healthy Mississippi through targeted grant making throughout the state, focusing on health and wellness initiatives to support our schools, communities, colleges and universities. More information is available at