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Schools seek to raise heart health awareness
Jump rope for heart pic
Riverview Elementary first-grader Calvry Richardson practices a special jump rope skill during Jump Rope for Heart. The event aims to teach children about the importance of physical fitness and heart health. - photo by Chelsea Thomas Dawson Community News

Riverview Elementary students bounced, jumped and skipped for donations earlier this month to benefit the American Heart Association.

Through Jump Rope for Heart, an annual fundraising event that aims to teach youth the importance of heart health, students participated in various exercises.

"We try to make sure they understand how heart disease is the number one killer in our country," said Clint Freeland, Riverview Elementary physical education teacher. "We want them to understand how important it is for them to keep their hearts healthy and to exercise."

According to the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance, every year 1 million people die from cardiovascular disease and stroke in the United States, which is nearly 40 percent of the deaths documented.

In addition, it has been reported that more than 15 percent of children and adolescents are now overweight and 27 million have high cholesterol.

While Riverview faculty encouraged students to raise dollars to help end heart disease, they were also trying to help encourage healthy habits.

"We have talked to students about kids their age who have heart problems. We actually have a few in our school who have had heart issues and who have had to have surgery at a very young age," Freeland said.

He teaches and encourages good nutrition, physical activity, staying tobacco free and maintaining a healthy blood pressure and weight.

It is the goal of Jump Rope for Heart to get the message across to students.

President Barack Obama agrees that heart health is essential to the nation's well being. On Jan. 31, he proclaimed February American Heart Month.

Freeland said he knows the personal devastation heart disease can have since his father, as well as his two grandfathers, suffered cardiovascular issues. This inspires him to help kids make healthy choices.

"It affects the lives of just about everyone - every family has at least one person affected," Freeland said.

Last year, Riverview Elementary raised about $2,100 through teachers and students receiving donations from their family and friends.