Driving down Rancho Road, passersby could not help but see the Payson Elementary School (PES) playground full of kids jumping up and down, flashes of bright color going around and around.
Huge speakers blared happy energetic music as physical education teacher Judy Perham called out over the intercom words of encouragement and direction to the second grade classes.
“You’re doing great!” she called out,. “You can use the big jump ropes or the whip and skip from P.E. class, but keep on jumpin’!”
The event? Jump Rope for Heart.
“I’ve participated in this event since 1992,” said Perham.
The American Heart Association (AHA) sponsors the daylong event to raise funds to help people who have heart disease.
On its Web site, the AHA has stories from children as young as 4 who have received help for their hearts.
One 4-year-old was born with a damaged heart has already survived two heart surgeries and must endure more as she grows up.
She thanked the “Heart Heroes” (students who participate in the program and raise money) for helping her and her family.
Both PES and Julia Randall Elementary (JRE) hold Jump Rope for Heart events. For weeks before the event, teachers talk about the event and help students to raise money. They also talk about healthy eating and exercise programs to inspire the students to remain healthy throughout their lives.
Like JRE, PES has a Student Wellness Advisory Team (SWAT) with ambassadors to advocate for their fellow students’ well-being.
As with JRE, these SWAT members have approached the food service employees and inspired them to replace cookies and sugary snacks and drinks with healthy options.
Three SWAT students from second grade took a moment out of their jump roping to praise the program.
Angel Alatriz said this is the first year he has been able to come to the jump rope party because he’s been too sick in the past.
“I always raised the money, but never went to the party,” he said.
He happily jumped with his friends and his mother who stopped by to volunteer.
Cru Hardman said he simply asked people to support raising money for heart health.
“Would you like to raise money to save people with sick hearts?” he said of his fund-raising request.
He was excited to jump because his father is in the military and a “champion jump-roper,” he said.
Fernando Reyna only wanted to help, proudly raising money and jumping rope enthusiastically.
Perham said the event has grown over the years. She now uses it to add to the SWAT program she has started.
This year she also partnered with the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (S.N.A.P.).
“They brought water in cups the kids could keep to teach them about staying hydrated,” said Perham. “It’s all part of the healthy curriculum.”
Donations may still be accepted for the Jump Rope for Heart fund-raising event.
Contact PES for more information at (928) 474-5882.