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Misunderstanding leads to disappointed Conn. schoolchildren

Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff  May 6, 2010 03:12 PM

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A case of miscommunication led to students and staff at Lebanon Middle School in Connecticut feeling disappointed this week.

On Tuesday, Lebanon held an event to reward students who participated in the Fuel Up to Play 60 program - a joint effort of the NFL and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the expectation at the school was that members of the Patriots would be on hand to work out with the children.

Instead, a New England intern with an exercise video and a registered dietitian were the featured guests.

After appearing in the Norwich Bulletin, the story was picked up by national web sites, and has become an embarrassing situation for the team and the New England Dairy & Food Council, the local organization involved in the program.

But officials at Lebanon MS made the assumption that Patriots' players were part of the deal -- and the New England Dairy and Food Council is taking full responsibility for the misunderstanding.

Gary Wheelock, CEO of the non-profit group, sends this statement:

"New England Dairy & Food Council wishes to apologize for our miscommunication that led to student disappointment that a New England Patriots player did not attend the Lebanon CT Middle School assembly program earlier this week.

This was not, in any way, the fault of the Patriots, it was solely New England Dairy & Food Council’s mistake, and we are very sorry.

We want to congratulate the kids at Lebanon Middle School for their exemplary efforts participating in the “Fuel Up To Play 60” program. Building strong bodies and strong minds is a goal we can all embrace.

Finally, we promise that we will find a way to make this right, and we ask the kids for their patience while we try to make amends."

Wheelock stressed that the Patriots do not deserve any criticism for the mixup and apologizes to the team for subjecting them to negative press.

For the record, the Fuel Up to Play 60 program sponsored by the Council does not have a player appearance component; it is an interactive nutrition and fitness program; there are hundreds of New England schools involved in the program and promising each an appearance by Patriots players is not possible.

News, analysis and commentary from Boston.com's staff writers and contributors, including Zuri Berry and Erik Frenz.

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