HASBROUCK HEIGHTS, NJ - Hasbrouck Heights Middle School students again participated in the annual “Hoops For Heart” event on Friday, February 14.  This fundraising event, sponsored by the American Heart Association, is fully organized and implemented by the school's Physical Education staff.  The goal is to help spread awareness about heart disease and heart defects that children are born with and adults experience throughout their lives. 

All the money raised by the Junior Aviators will be donated directly to the organization, which will help support its mission of helping those in need of heart-related treatments, including research, medicine, and equipment. 

February is also American Heart Month. About 420,000 people in New Jersey have coronary heart disease according to the NIH National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. This is the most common form of heart disease. 

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In Physical Education/Health class prior to this event, the instructors discussed the importance of making heart-healthy decisions and many of the issues that may result when living an inactive lifestyle and not eating healthy.  The teachers also discussed that some children are born with a specific type of heart defect that is obviously beyond their control. 

Students participated in two periods of 4-on-4 basketball games with their peers and classmates.  Jackie Ferranti was the lead coordinator of the event, and all the PE staff (Kristopher Freund, Vincent Marchese, Corinne Miller, Maria Abbatiello, and Justin Schmarak) assisted with implementing and running the various activities throughout the day.  High school students who are leaders within the school helped run and referee the games. 

"This is also a very important part of the program because the middle school students look up to older students," said Joseph Mastropietro, Hasbrouck Heights Middle School principal. "They get a chance to interact with older students who are setting the bar high as role models for the Junior Aviators."

Intertwined throughout the Friday were two guest speakers organized by Student Assistance Counselor Barbara Christianson.  Dr. Mykee Fowlin and Gian Paul Gonzalez each provided very powerful character education messages to the students. 

“Dr. Mykee and Gian Paul Gonzalez were so powerful and made such an impact on our kids because their stories are very real," said Frank D'Amico, Vice Principal. "Each of them portrayed characters that represent themselves growing up while facing all of life’s challenges. The important lessons that they learned as young adolescents were certainly passed down to our students during their presentations.”

Mastropietro noted that several families provided assistance in bringing in the guest speakers as part of the School Safety Initiative, including the Bing family, the Blum family, the Abromowitz family, the Kouletas family, and The Bagel Shop.

To complete the day, Ferranti and the PE department organized a “Wellness Circuit” for all of the eight graders.  The circuit included Nutrition, Meditation, and Yoga in designated locations throughout the school. Nutrition specialists from Inserra ran the nutrition portion, while high school students from the Wellness Club ran the Yoga and Meditation portions, under the direction of Abatiello and other Wellness advisors. 

“The entire day was amazing and so thoroughly planned by our teachers," said Mastropietro. "Friday was a great example of educating the “whole” child, away from the norm of math, science, social studies, reading, and writing. We have an amazing group of educators who truly care about our students and it showed on Valentine’s Day.”

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