WEST CALDWELL, NJ – Students from Lincoln and Washington Elementary Schools joined together this year, raising nearly $11,000 for the American Heart Association through their annual Jump Rope for Heart Event.

At the event, students got their hearts and muscles pumping as they rotated around the school’s multipurpose room to one of six stations. The activities ranged from individual jumping stations, to team jump roping, hopscotch, double dutch and more. Students began at one station and progressed around the room until they completed all six stations. 

According to a school representative, for Lincoln School, the event started with a simple flyer that arrived in the mail 16 years ago. Since then, it has has grown into a highly-anticipated annual event at the Caldwell school. Coordinated by school nurse Maryann Ciesla, R.N. and physical education instructor Sheila Zeman, the event is held each year on the last Friday of March. However, due to weather, the event was pushed to April 10 this year. Ciesla has been instrumental in raising nearly $600,000 during that time. Zeman, who also teaches at Washington Elementary School, carried the successful event to the West Caldwell School soon after its launch where it has been a successful event for 12 years.

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“Students at Lincoln School really look forward to third through fifth grade so that they can participate in the event,” said Ciesla. “We hold the event on a Friday night, and it is truly a fun way to do good. To keep students from all grades interested, we sell glow sticks during the lunch period at school and again during the event.”

Students took to the floor at the end of the evening and danced to traditional line dance songs including YMCA, the Cotton-Eyed Joe, Cha-Cha Slide and more. The teachers and administrators joined in.

According to Ciesla and Zeman, the teachers and administrators have so much fun each year that they have no trouble recruiting their peers to participate in the voluntary Friday night event. Each year, nearly half of the school’s staff volunteer at the event, turning jump ropes, manning the stations or even attempting to double dutch. Each year, current and former teachers and staff members help by twirling ropes, registering students, selling glow sticks and more.

This year, Washington School students Justin and Jeremy Rodriquez were the star fundraisers, raising $2,200—a record for a single family at the event. Last year, Justin was the star of the fundraiser, raising $1200—setting an all-time record for both Washington and Lincoln schools.

Jump Rope for Heart is a national educational fund-raising program that is sponsored by the American Heart Association and the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (AAHPERD). Elementary students engage in a physical activity (jumping rope) while raising funds to support lifesaving heart and stroke research. The students ask friends and family for donations and receive thank-you gifts based on the dollars that they raise. The program teaches physical fitness while promoting the value of community service to students and their families, showing students that they can contribute to their community's welfare.