DANIEL CLIFTON • PICAYUNE EDITOR
MARBLE FALLS — They can’t wait to show of their jumping skills. Even after Colt Elementary School physical education teacher Debby Johnson tells the fourth-graders they can stop jumping rope, the students keep going.
“Hey, watch this,” one youth says. “I can do it ‘blindfolded.’”
Then with his eyes closed, he starts jumping — an easy dozen jumps later, he stops and demonstrates it again, but backward. He only makes a half-dozen, but he’s still smiling.
“They love it,” Johnson said.
Each year in February, Johnson and assistant P.E. coach Dave Morgan pull out the jump ropes — long ones, short ones and even Chinese ones. February is American Heart Health Month, and it’s also time for the American Heart Association’s Jump Rope for Heart program. And for more than a decade, Johnson has used the month and the program to help get her students interested in heart health, but it goes much deeper than that.
The American Heart Association offers prizes for the kids who raise certain levels of money during the Jump Rope for Heart program, but the students quickly point out it’s not about the incentives.
“We do it because it helps other people,” one girl said. “We don’t do it for the prizes.”
Johnson explained the money raised through the jump rope program helps people around the world through research, grants and funding. A video Johnson showed at the start of the month to get the kids interested in jumping rope and the American Heart Association told the story of a little girl named Vivian. When she was born, Vivian suffered from heart problems and underwent her first heart surgery when she was about two weeks old. Surgeons operated on her a few more times to correct the problem.
Now, another student explained, Vivian is active and runs just like a kid should.
“That’s right,” Johnson said. “And it’s because of funding through the American Heart Association that those things are possible.”
But the kids don’t have to look further than the Colt Elementary gym to find somebody who has benefited from heart research and heart medicine improvements. Morgan shared that about 17 years ago, doctors diagnosed him with a irregular heart beat. At the time, all they could do was prescribe him drugs for the condition.
About a year ago, Morgan underwent a procedure in which doctors corrected the problem.
“And that became available because of research,” Johnson said. “And that research takes money, which the (the students) help raise through this — jumping rope.”
Johnson and Morgan teach more than just the basic jumping rope. They show the students different styles and even ways to jump as doubles. And without much prompting, two boys and then two girls step up to demonstrate two different styles of doubles.
The program runs through February. People interested in donating to the American Heart Association through the Colt Elementary students’ Jump Rope for Heart effort may contact Johnson at (830) 693-3474 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
But if you show up to her P.E. class, don’t worry about being handed a jump rope — the kids have already grabbed them all.