Students at White Oak jump rope for heart health

MORRIS – The gymnasiums at White Oak Elementary School echoed with loud music, screaming students and the whipping of jump ropes Friday morning as students took part in a Jump Rope for Heart event.

“He thinks he does it better backwards so he’s only jumping backwards,” laughed Barb Semlar as she watched her son Tyler, a second-grader, jump rope.

Semlar was one of several parents who chaperoned the event, which lasted all morning and involved almost every student in the school.

Students were placed into groups of five and required to jump rope for the length of their physical education class, or 45 minutes. The students were given periodic breaks and provided snacks and drinks so they wouldn’t get tired.

The jumping was part of Jump Rope for Heart, a nationwide education and fundraising project for the American Heart Association.

“In November, we show them a DVD to give them a little background about why we do it,” physical education teacher Justin Zink said. “It shows the experiences of a few kids who had heart issues and gives them some information.”

Jump Rope for Heart also provides each school with a heart-healthy curriculum to create awareness before the day of the event.

As part of the program, kids and faculty fundraise for the American Heart Association with 10 percent of all money raised going back to the school’s PE program.

Last year, White Oak students raised about $5,300, providing the PE program with about $500, but Zink said they collected close to $7,000 through this year’s fundraiser.

“We have different prizes for the top fundraisers,” said Evan Wyllie, PE teacher. “The kids love it. They get really into it.”

Wyllie said the money is used to buy new equipment and could be put toward developing an entirely new unit for White Oak’s PE classes.

Semlar said her son worked hard to raise money this year.

“He was hitting everybody up,” she said. “He mostly asked family. It was too cold to go door to door.”

White Oak was not participating in the program two years ago when Zink started, so he and the other teachers decided to get back on board.

“It’s a great program and not that hard to get organized,” Zink said.