Local elementary schools jump for heart health

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Candy hearts were not the only hearts on the minds of Missouri Western and St. Joseph elementary students who participated in last week’s American Heart Association’s Jump Rope for Heart.

On Feb. 11, the M.O. Looney complex arena was filled with 484 students from twelve St. Joseph elementary schools who joined together to jump rope for America’s number one killer: heart disease. Together the students raised nearly $20,000, with Coleman Elementary bringing in the most at nearly $8,000.

The money raised was donated to the American Heart Association for cardiovascular disease research and educational programs.

Graphic by Sara Baum

This year also marked Missouri Western’s twentieth year as a sponsor for this event but Randall Bergman’s—assistant professor for the department of health, physical education and recreation—first year organizing it.

“I have worked on other community service events in the past but this is my first time working with the American Heart Association,” Bergman said. “This thing with elementary students, controlled chaos, it’s a first.”

Bergman gives credit to the elementary school teachers who have spent the last several weeks helping the students raise money, as well as educating them about the risks of heart disease and heart attacks.

“I think that the teachers at the elementary level say alright, these things we [teachers] are doing now are either helping inform the student’s parents or grandparents about the risk [heart disease] or informing them [students] of the risk [heart disease] in the future,” he said. “So with that, the message has to be constant from kindergarten to sixth grade and beyond.”

Hosea Elementary third grader, Jaden Denton, who wants to someday attend Missouri Western to be a doctor, knew exactly why she spent her time after school jumping rope for the American Heart Association.

“I want to help so people will stop dying,” Denton said. “I want to be a surgeon when I grow up so I can help people.”

Although the event was organized for the St. Joseph elementary schools, Missouri Western students were encouraged to participate as part of their applied learning.

Bergman explained it is an opportunity for Missouri Western students who are interested in elementary physical education to network with the St. Joseph physical education teachers.

“I encourage the students to introduce themselves to the teachers to get their name out there,” Bergman said. “They may even decide that working with kids is not for them.”

Missouri Western health, physical education and recreation students were asked to volunteer for the event by passing out tickets at the door, helping the children jump rope, as well as ensuring the kids were safe and accounted for; however Missouri Western students found themselves joining in on the action. Freshman Kyle Benson, a recreational sports management major, admitted he has lost his touch in double dutch but that didn’t stop him from joining in with the kids.

“This is a perfect event for me to come to hang out with the kids,” Benson said. “Some of them are quite competitive.”

Benson explained he attended the event for class credit but was excited to be a part of a good cause.
Jonell Pedescleaux, assistant professor for the department of health, physical education and recreation, knew she had to get involved because of the important message the event was sending to kids.

“Physical fitness and activity is very important and if you read in the newspaper recently Michelle Obama’s initiative and cause is to fight childhood obesity,” Pedescleaux said. “And I like the idea that the kids are here and not at home playing video games. Kids are physically active for a lifetime when they learn to be active.”

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