Jumping for the heart
By Liz Vos
The entire gymnasium at Albany Elementary School seemed to be in constant motion on the afternoon of Feb. 25. With music playing and laughter echoing it was clear that there was something amazing happening as 110 students in grades 3-6 worked their way through 12 jump-roping stations for 7-minute intervals. They were there to celebrate the 23rd year of Jump Rope for Heart.
Each of the 12 stations offered new challenges and fun for students, but more importantly, the event brought awareness to the health benefits of jump-roping, which range from cardiovascular improvement to brain exercise. Studies show that jumping improves balance, coordination, reflexes, bone density and muscular endurance.
When it comes to endurance, one cannot help but look to the person who has spearheaded the event since its inception in Albany: Annette Brewer.
“When I started teaching here, jumping rope wasn’t part of the curriculum,” said Brewer, who began teaching physical education at Albany Elementary in 1992. “I wanted to start something fun to get kids interested in jump-roping and that’s how this all began.”
As the sound of ropes and feet hit the gym floor around her, Brewer recalls that another goal she had in mind from the start was to get boys interested in the activity. At the time, she says, it just wasn’t something boys were doing.
“I didn’t like that,” she said of the biased involvement. “So I made it a goal to get both boys and girls equally involved.”
At last week’s event, Brewer’s goal appeared to have been met; boys and girls seemed to make up nearly equal amounts of jumpers.
“It has definitely balanced more out in participation,” Brewer said. “I am really happy to have seen that change.”
Both boys and girls were on the move last week, but it was not just about having fun and making memories; they also had come together to raise $6,397. Staff of the school added an additional $300 to that amount.
The funds raised go toward cardiovascular disease and stroke research and health education. SHAPE America and the American Heart Association sponsor the event that promotes physical education and provides children with the knowledge of heart disease and stroke.
“I continue to be amazed and grateful for the support the community and the school offer to this event,” Brewer said. “We have parent volunteers and National Honor Society students here who give their time too – it really comes together well with such support.”
For her efforts, Brewer is now receiving one of only 10 national Jump Rope for Heart/Hoops For Heart grants from SHAPE America – Society of Health and Physical Educators. She will be recognized on April 7 during the association’s Celebration of Professional Excellence ceremony in Minneapolis. Over the years, Brewer’s efforts have raised nearly $100,000.
“Annette’s commitment to Jump Rope for Heart is really impressive,” said Albany Elementary Principal Ann Schultz. “It is one of the most anticipated events for students in third through sixth grade; the students had a great time.”
Schultz adds that Brewer’s focus on the health of students is showcased through the Jump Rope for Heart event.
“To prepare for the event, Annette incorporates a very in-depth jump rope course in her classes,” Schultz said. “It is just one more way that her dedication to improving health and wellness of all students at Albany Elementary is demonstrated.”
As Brewer looked on at the event last week, she assured that the process ran smoothly and that the ropes kept moving. With every jump they made, the students’ smiles grew. The hope now is that the correlation of fitness and fun continues to carry on into the rest of their lives.
“There is so much that can be done with jump ropes,” she said. “It is a lot of fun. I am proud to carry this on.”