American Heart Association Youth Market Director Nichole Piche with, from left, Desman Stephens, Francesca Catella, Grace Aguilar-Fernandez, Graham Fugate, and Katrina Fisheer. Photo by Jessica Steeley
BY JESSICA STEELEY
Clarkston News Staff Writer
Pine Knob Elementary kicked off their Jump Rope for Heart fundraiser last week with a school assembly.
Though Pine Knob has been partnering with the American Heart Association (AHA) program for several years, it has become more successful recently since Physical Education teacher Anthony Taormina expanded the program six years ago.
“We started doing a kickoff assembly and a closing assembly. We kick off every other year and I try to get a jump team in here that does a bunch of jumps – jump roping, crazy tricks. The kids love it,” Taormina said, “Or I’ll show the promotional video and just to get the kids involved. We let them know what’s going on and get them excited for it.”
During the closing assembly, he said they’ll present the money raised to the AHA. Last year was Pine Knob’s biggest year, with the kids raising over $10,000.
AHA Youth Market Director Nichole Piche has been coming out to help with the assemblies the last couple years to get kids excited about the fundraiser.
“Jump Rope for Heart aims to educate students on heart health awareness as well as raising money to help others for the American Heart Association,” Piche said. “It’s a free program the schools can be involved with. We help to educate the kids, we provide educational resource materials and stuff for the teachers.”
Piche said heart disease is the number one killer of Americans, even though it’s 80 percent preventable.
“We can meet these kids at their level and help them to create healthy habits, which is what they’re trying to do in PE class everyday anyways,” she said.
Taormina said the AHA is great at providing resources to teach students about heart healthy habits and being proactive with their bodies, helping them learn what a serious condition heart disease is.
“Jump Rope for Heart isn’t just a week, it’s not a month, it’s not just an event, we’re trying to change lifestyles. It’s not lifestyle right now, it’s lifestyle to carry on through a lifetime,” Taormina said.
He puts a lot of time and effort into the fundraiser, even trying to make it an Academic Service Learning project every year. He’s a firm believer in the program due to losing several friends and family to heart disease.
“He’s created a tradition here to have every year. Hopefully the kids look forward to it and they start asking questions,” Piche said.
Both Piche and Taormina think Jump Rope for Heart is great for kids because they learn about heart disease and healthy habits. Plus, they get excited to tell their parents, neighbors and relatives, resulting in donations.
“It’s a good program, I advocate for it, I follow it. I think a lot of schools should get involved,” Taormina said. “We’re here to teach and educate kids to, to help a global society. This is gonna help them in the long run, so why not?”