Jumping for healthy hearts (4/1/10)

April 1, 2010

By Greg Duggan

Observer staff

At first glance, the gymnasium in Allen Brook School was pure pandemonium on Friday morning. As dozens of students jumped rope, music blared across the gym and dozens more students dashed throughout the open floor with friends. Despite the seemingly hectic atmosphere, the scene has become an annual one when Williston students participate in the American Heart Association’s Jump Rope For Heart event.


    Observer photo by Greg Duggan
Joe Warren (left), 10, and Kyle Burbank, 8, hold the ends of a rope while 9-year-old Tyler Skaflestad jumps over the cord in the Allen Brook School gymnasium. Approximately 330 kids from Williston Central and Allen Brook schools participated in the Jump Rope For Heart event on Friday, raising more than $18,000 for the American Heart Association.


    Observer photo by Greg Duggan
Maggie Warren, 8, skips rope at the Jump Rope For Heart fund-raiser on Friday.


    Observer photo by Greg Duggan
Ella Bohman, 7, jumps rope on Friday.

“We call it our organized chaos day,” physical education teacher Pat Bannerman said.

The gym may have looked chaotic, but the students had a singular goal in mind: raising money for the American Heart Association. In three hours of jumping rope each year, Williston students typically raise $15,000 to $20,000. This year, approximately 330 students from Williston Central and Allen Brook schools participated in Jump Rope For Heart. The money is still being tallied, but athletic director and physical education teacher Jennifer Oakes said the schools raised more than $18,000.

Teams of seven or eight kids took over spots on the gymnasium floor, and made sure that at least one member of each team was jumping at all times. When not skipping rope, the students mingled with friends or streamed into the lobby to drink water and eat apples or oranges.

Physical education teachers and 20 or so volunteers — parents and University of Vermont students — encouraged the kids to keep jumping. Small contests throughout the morning netted the kids redeemable chips they could turn in for cookies. Physical education teacher Cathy Kohlasch said the volunteers made sure all participants got a chip.

Not that the students needed much incentive to keep jumping rope. With about 44 minutes left on the clock, one student walked up to physical education teacher Lyn Porter to ask how much time remained. After Porter answered the student, she asked, “Do you wish you could go longer?”

“Yes,” the boy replied before running off to continue jumping rope.

The enthusiasm of students has continually made Williston’s schools one of Vermont’s top participants in Jump Rope For Heart. Russell Beilke, the youth market director for the American Heart Association, said approximately 160 schools in the state take part in either Jump Rope For Heart or Hoops For Heart, a basketball-themed fund-raiser; combined, Williston Central and Allen Brook often top the state in participation and fund-raising.

Beilke said money raised at the events funds heart research and education.

Several students said they enjoyed the day and had fun helping the American Heart Association.

“My favorite part is probably right at the beginning when we start jumping,” 8-year-old Bobby Spencer said. “I get so happy at the beginning, like, ‘Yes, we’re starting!’”