A wellness event that got students at T.J. Connor Elementary School skipping rope and shooting hoops also gave Wheatland-Chili Central School District the opportunity to show some big heart — and raise some big bucks — while promoting healthy habits.
In February, Wheatland-Chili held Jump Rope For Heart and Hoops For Heart, national education and fundraising events sponsored by the American Heart Association and the Society for Health and Physical Educators. The event exceeded all expectations and raised more than $5,000, of which a percentage will go toward funding heart surgery for children.
T.J. Connor physical education teacher Christine Fisher helped oversee the event and was elated by what her students were able to accomplish.
“I was really impressed and proud of them,” Fisher says. “Because for such a small district, I was not expecting to raise that much money. The kids just came through… It’s amazing what they did.”
Several weeks prior, students were informed about Jump Rope For Heart and Hoops For Heart with several goals in mind: encourage kids to exercise, create heart-healthy habits and learn the value of supporting your community and those in need. While P.E. classes fundamentally promote exercise, Fisher understands the importance of educating her students on physical wellness and healthy living.
“In P.E. that’s what we do, we exercise and move around, trying to encourage kids,” Fisher says. “Heart disease is one of the No. 1 killers, so just by exercising and eating healthy, you can reduce your risks.”
During the donation period leading up to the event, students were incentivized with collectible key chains featuring monsters known as the Scare Squad. Each key chain came with unique themes and messages, each of which encourages healthy habits. Students could also play Scare Squad games online and discover more health-related advice as they play. Fisher says the Scare Squad was a big hit with the children.
When the day finally came for Jump Rope For Heart and Hoops For Heart, students had the choice of participating in either activity during their regularly scheduled P.E. classes. T.J. Connor has a student body of about 300 youths in kindergarten through fifth grade, of which 72 were responsible for amassing the total amount donated. Liah Hilchey gathered the most donations at $500, Fisher says. One student collected $300, and seven others each collecting more than $20, she adds.
With each milestone they crossed, teachers congratulated and encouraged students to keep collecting donations. Although some weren’t collecting initially, the positive energy and support was able to turn some heads.
As an educator, Fisher values her responsibility in creating opportunity for her students. Whether it’s to benefit their own lives or someone else’s, getting kids to make the effort is the first step, and Jump Rope For Heart and Hoops For Heart was the right opportunity.
“I’m just trying to do something to encourage them to help other people,” Fisher says.
Although most collections were made on the day of the event, donations continued to trickle in throughout the week, resulting in about $5,500 collected.
Jump Rope For Heart and Hoops for Heart events can be scheduled year-round by simply signing up on the American Heart Association website. The students at T.J. Connor wore their hearts on their sleeves and made a difference. The same can be said for anyone willing to encourage youths to be heart-healthy humanitarians.