Kids jump rope to raise funds for American Heart Association
By Josh O’Gorman
STAFF WRITER | March 26,2013
Anthony Edwards / Staff Photo
Liviana Ademson jumps a rope swung by her classmates Cassidy Steckler, left, and Jasper Steckler during Jump Rope for Heart, a fundraiser for the American Heart Association, at Shrewsbury Mountain School on Monday.
CUTTINGSVILLE — It’s a matter of taking one step — or skip — at a time to defeat heart disease.
The students of Shrewsbury Mountain School picked up jump ropes and even a rubber chicken Monday as they took part in “Jump Rope for Heart.”
“Today, these guys are raising money for the American Heart Association, for people who can’t always afford the procedures they need,” said physical education teacher Ted Panasci, who led students through a series of stations around the gymnasium, where children skipped rope alone and in groups and even took turns jumping over a rubber chicken tied to a jump rope, swung in a circle by a fellow classmate.
“My favorite so far is ‘Jump the Chicken,’” said third-grader Chris Burnett, just before he pulled down his shirt to reveal a 6-inch scar high in the center of his chest, a mark from the open-heart surgery he underwent when he was 3 months old.
“He was born with a hole in his heart, a ventricular septal defect,” said Chris’ mother, Michelle Burnett, who was on hand Monday to watch her son jump rope. “When we went to Boston to have the surgery, his heart was the size of a walnut and the hole was the size of a dime.”
Chris experienced heart failure when he was 2 months old, and following his surgery spent 30 days hospitalized at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center fighting an infection.
“That stay cost $30,000,” said Michelle Burnett. “Thankfully, we have insurance.”
The American Heart Association helps families less fortunate than the Burnetts with their medical bills. The first “Jump Rope for Heart” was held in Illinois in 1977, and in 1978 the program went national as a partnership between the American Heart Association and the American Alliance for Heath, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance.
“In addition to raising lifesaving funds, jumping rope also promotes physical activity, helping kids to live stronger, more active lives,” said Audra Burns, communications director for the Vermont Chapter of the American Heart Association. “Childhood obesity is one of our nation’s leading health threats.”
This year, there are 161 schools in the state taking part in “Jump Rope for Heart” and its sister program, a basketball-themed fundraiser called “Hoops for Heart.” Last year, schools in the state raised $237,975 through the programs. In its prior four years, Shrewsbury Mountain School has raised $1,350.
Following his surgery, Chris has led a pretty normal life. The youngest of four children, he enjoys hunting and fishing.
“I’m an outdoors person,” Chris said. “I hope to get a deer this year, and a bass, and a catfish, and go fishing with my cousin and my uncle.”
However, one night in June 2011, Chris began acting strangely and complaining of numbness on one side of his body. An MRI revealed Chris had experienced a stroke.
“Before, he was an excellent student, but after the stroke, he struggles with his spelling, short-term memory and thought processing. He’ll be talking to his brothers and forget what he’s saying,” Michelle Burnett said. “We want to make people more aware that kids can have strokes too.”
Strokes are the fourth leading cause of death in the United States, according to the American Heart Association. Burnett encouraged others to lend their support.
“If it wasn’t for them and their research, Chris wouldn’t be here today,” she said.
For more information or to make a donation, visit www.heart.org/jump.