The annual Jump Rope for Hearts event is a way for students to get some needed exercise as well as raise money to help people live longer lives, said Tracey Pritchard, a fifth grade teacher at the school, the 4-H Club sponsor and creator of the event.
“The students have to raise at least $5 to participate in the event, which allows them to use 30 minutes of their P.E. period to jump rope,” Pritchard said. “I tell the children since Valentine’s Day is a day of the heart, what better way is there to help the heart association.”
The students are not only excited about jumping rope, but Christy Sorenson, LSU AgCenter 4-H agent for Livingston Parish, said the students can also win prizes and recognition.
“This is also a competition with other 4-H Clubs in the parish, and the club that raises the most money will be recognized during Achievement Day in April,” Sorenson said.
The students at Southside Elementary alone raised nearly $3,000 with this event last year, and the parish total was almost $50,000 for the heart association, Sorenson said.
Pritchard said the students have many opportunities to help worthy causes in the community.
4-H Club President Hailey Darnielle said helping people is fun.
“We did a canned food drive for people who didn’t have enough food for Thanksgiving. We did ‘Stuff the Stocking’ for the Livingston Parish Sheriff’s Office to donate for kids who don’t have any toys for Christmas. We did ‘Souper’ Bowl in January to stop hunger, and we also do Valentines for Soldiers in February,” Hailey said.
Sorenson said some of the other schools are doing a variety of events to raise money for the heart association during February.
“Some of the schools do ‘Hoops for Hearts,’ some do candy grams, and others do paper hearts where they pay a dollar to have their name put on a paper heart that is pasted on a wall at school,” Sorenson said.
Sorenson said she’s not aware of any 4-H event like the Jump Rope for Hearts outside of Livingston Parish, but said it’s possible because her American Heart Association contact person covers a regional area.
“Our 4-H members really like the Jump Rope for Hearts event because it allows them to help the younger students, and they also are able to participate in the competition,” Sorenson said.
Pritchard said the event is special to her because her own daughter had open heart surgery when she was five years old.
“We thought the surgery would have to be performed in New Orleans, but we were able to get her surgery done at Our Lady of the Lake in Baton Rouge because the America Heart Association had donated money to the hospital to buy the special equipment needed to do the surgery on babies and small children,” Pritchard said.
The competition is part of the fun for the students because they understand they have to have $5 to participate. But if they raise $15, they earn their own jump rope.
“The student that raises the most money wins a teddy bear, and the class that raises the most money wins a set of jump ropes. So the competition is fierce,” Pritchard said.
Other projects the students have helped raise money for are the American Cancer Society and St. Jude Research Hospital.
Pritchard said she is trying to teach students about the importance of exercise to keep their hearts healthy and to let them know that all of the money is going to help others who already have heart problems.
“In the spring the students will do the city trash bash cleanup like they did last year,” Pritchard said. “Every month we try to have a fundraiser for some organization. They stay busy; it’s always something going on.”