MARSHVILLE – East Union Middle School recently raised more than $1,000 for the American Heart Association through the Hoops for Heart program.
For some of the kids who participated, the chance to play three-on-three basketball games against classmates, and compete for the highest number of single three-point shots, was enough of a reason to get involved.
But when the school’s principals volunteered to let the winners pie them, the fundraising results exceeded expectations.
“Oh, absolutely it was an added bonus,” said physical education teacher Jason Conklin who organized this year’s event. “Anytime you can do that, it adds some incentive to the school.”
This was Conklin’s second year organizing the Hoops for Heart event.
The week-long event includes basketball tournaments during all PE classes, so Conklin had to enlist the help of the other PE teachers: Nelson Rowell, Teresa Henderson and Misty Tarlton.
He said last year, when Brittany Sweeney, youth marketing director for the American Heart Association in Union County asked the school to get involved, he saw it as an opportunity to bring awareness to his students.
“There are so many people in our school who can relate to heart disease and ailments associated with that, and being the PE and health teacher, we talk about cardiovascular strength and tie in how working out and living a healthy lifestyle can prevent some of the heart ailments we’re raising money to do research for,” Conklin said.
The event raised $558.20 last year, and with nearly 30 percent of the student body participating in this year’s week-long event, they were able to double that.
“Last year we were just getting our feet wet and there were a lot of uncertainties, not really knowing what the program was about and what was going on, and this year we built upon last year, and the kids that were here knew what to expect, so it’s the beginning of a good foundation,” Conklin said. “Hopefully next year we can build on this year’s success.”
Conklin said they added soccer activities to this year’s event and he hopes to expand on that next year. He also hopes to have at least 50 percent of the students participating.
This was principal Ken Hoover’s first year at the school and his first time participating in the program, and what better way to get involved than to offer yourself as a prize.
The winner of the basketball competition got to pie their grade-level principal, who ended up being sixth-grade principal Jim Eversole.
The students who raised the most money got to pie Hoover.
“I think it stirred interest because we raised over $1,000 this year, so it served our interest,” Hoover said. “We’ll have to set our goal higher next year.”
The fundraising goal for this year was $800, which they shot past exponentially.
“I think this competition got the kids excited about PE class, and it was a fun activity for them that they enjoyed, and we were able to raise money for a great organization and promote being healthy all at the same time,” Hoover said.
“They did an awesome job for their second year,” Sweeney said about the school’s fundraising efforts.
Sweeney said it’s important for the American Heart Association to reach out to young students because it’s important they develop healthy lifestyles before they reach adulthood.
“It’s important they know there are things they can do to prevent heart disease later in life,” Sweeney said. “We try and make sure we start them at a young age eating healthy, getting exercise, getting enough rest, not smoking. It will help make sure they have good habits versus bad habits.”
Sweeney said she works with about 30 schools in Union County who put on a Hoops for Heart or Jump Rope for Heart event. Weddington Middle and Indian Trail Elementary have events coming up.
“All together, it’s 30 schools, elementary and middle, and one high school, Marvin Ridge,” Sweeney said. “We just thank everyone for their support in doing our event because it’s programs like this that we’re able to raise money for lifesaving research.”
All of the money raised goes toward research grants for hospitals and universities.
“We have some great volunteers in Union County who are really committed to the physical education for these students, and if it wasn’t for the educators, we wouldn’t have come as far as we have in letting children know they can take control of their heart healthy,” Sweeney said.
To learn more about Hoops/Jump Rope for Heart, visit the American Heart Association at www.heart.org/charlotte.