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Elm students jump to healthier hearts

BURR RIDGE – Terri Miller looked on with delight as her son, Brent Bergnach, exclaimed, “Watch this mom!”

In the midst of all the fun 10-year-old Brent was having as he sprung through the air on the miniature trampoline, he was actually doing wonders for his heart and health.

“I’m trying to get him to do jump activities more so it can help him with all his sports,” said Miller of Burr Ridge. “Jumping strengthens his legs and his heart.”

Brent was one of about 25 Elm School fifth graders participating in the American Heart Association’s “Jump Rope for Heart” program Feb. 19. Throughout the day, all the school’s physical education classes were using short ropes, long ropes, hula hoops, trampolines and spring boards to promote heart health and physical activity.

Parents such as Miller were also invited to observe and interact with their children as they completed various activities.

“It’s great to see them try all these different kinds of activities,” Miller said. “I think it’s a great way for them to stay active and to stay healthy.”

Allison Neswold-Henley of Downers Grove, a representative from the American Heart Association, was also on hand to present Elm School the Jump Rope for Heart banner and celebrate the program’s 35th anniversary.

Neswold-Henley said there is “three-prong” purpose to Jump Rope for Heart at public schools: Educate the youth about their heart health, get kids active and hearts moving at the event and to help others further their heart health.

“Our goal is that they learn how being physically active can impact their heart and overall health,” Neswold-Henley said.

Newswold-Henley also gave each student an AHA badge for participating in Jump Rope for Heart.

“I like to say that half of our badge is for all of you participating in keeping your heart healthy today, and the other half is for those who were able to raise donations to help other people,” she said. “I hope you not only learn how to keep your heart healthy today, but every day hereafter.”

Prior to the event, students could set up their own fundraising pages on the AHA website, benefiting the AHA and the rest of its programs.

But when PE began, the students could hardly wait to get moving.

“I think they’re ready to get jumping,” said Mary Rizzo, Elm School PE teacher.

Immediately after Rizzo uttered those words, children flocked to each designated station where, within minutes, no one stayed on the ground for longer than 60 seconds.

“They’re just moving all the time,” Rizzo said.

Her fifth year doing the program at Elm School, Rizzo explained its Jump Rope for Heart is a “wonderful opportunity” for the students to understand movement and how it relates to heart health.

But one of the best parts of the day was watching parents work together with their children, according to Rizzo.

“That’s the real joy here at Elm is the families coming to see what’s going on,” she said.

Rizzo said Jump Rope for Heart may be just for the day, but students at Elm are also involved with several after-school sports and physical activities.

The PE teacher begins every week by asking students how they spent their weekend, and each time she is greeted with a wealth of encouraging responses.

“A lot raised their hands and said they were shoveling over the weekend; I said, ‘Do you know what great exercise that is?’”

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