Elementary children rope in heart health

Published 12:00 am Sunday, April 17, 2005

Jonathan Cline, a fourth-grader at Dawson-Bryant Elementary, is gulping down water like it's going out of style. He has slipped away from the gym for just a moment to refresh himself after his participation in Jump Rope for Heart, which took place Thursday at the school.

The expert jumper was in fine form yesterday, with at least 110 jumps, but he was trying to put the praise out of his head as he focused on the goal of the event: Raising money for the American Heart Association.

"A lot of people in my class think I'm a really good jumper," Jonathan said, "but mostly I'm just helping the heart disease people with raising money and everything."

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Fourth-grader Cody Davidson was enjoying the workout, but his favorite part of the event was the way his neighbors had become involved. The children of Dawson-Bryant had canvassed the area attempting to find people to sponsor them in the jump-a-thon.

"I feel really good about helping out the charity, and all the people on my street do too," Cody said. "I have people on my street who I go to church with and they all have relatives who have cancer and stuff."

Some of Cody's donations may help out those neighbors who assisted him. Physical Education Teacher Leslie Blackwell said a majority of the donated funds stay in the area in which they are raised.

Students also learned some of the side benefits of charity work as they collected a number of prizes depending on how much money they collected for the American Heart Association. Think of it as the childhood version of a tax write-off.

The school also reaps the benefits of Jump Rope for Heart. In addition to receiving complimentary jump ropes, $100 of gym equipment will be donated to the school by the American Heart Association for every $1,500 that Dawson-Bryant Elementary raises.

Blackwell also presented one more carrot before the students to get their jump ropes twirling, one that may appeal to the children's more mischievous side.

"As an incentive, they're going to duct-tape me to the wall," Blackwell said. "So for every $10 they raise they get a piece of duct-tape. Then they'll get their picture taken with me duct-taped to the wall."

Though they raised money for promoting the health of others, the children's own fitness is just as important in the Jump Rope for Heart. As the children leapt, they were working on a skill that Blackwell said isn't as popular these days: play.

"Most kids don't play outside the way they did when I was a kid," Blackwell said. "So a lot of times, the only way they learn things like jumping rope or hopscotch is either phys-ed class or recess. Unless it's electronic, kids just don't play games like they used to."

They raised $3,350 for the AHA, and jumped 96,000 times to help their own tickers, but the biggest benefits for the elementary students may be the feeling that will last long after they've caught their breath.

"I ask each class, 'How many people know someone who has had a heart attack or a stroke?' and most of them raise their hands," Blackwell said. "We talk about how when you're doing something for someone else how much that helps your heart - emotionally and spiritually."