Fourth-grader Kindell Cranfill was exhausted by the time she finished her fourth lap around the big field at Margaret R. Brown Elementary School.
But she had so much fun participating in the school’s first Walk for Heart on Monday morning, she was ready to do it all over again.
“I wish we could go out more than once or maybe just spend the whole day out there,” she said.
Some students said they wanted to have a Walk for Heart day every day.
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As a spinoff of Jump Rope for Heart, the event was organized by physical education teacher Sharon Wood in a way that allowed students to choose which physical activities they wanted to do.
“I liked that you could choose to walk or run,” first-grader Alex Money said.
Different stations were set up around the course where kids could stop and complete a variety of additional exercises, from jumping jacks, push-ups and sit-ups to toe touches, cartwheels and hula hooping.
At one stop, they could even gallop around one of the Jackson County bicentennial bison statues that will be on display throughout the county this year.
“That was my favorite thing to do,” first-grader Kayla Martinez said.
Kindell said she liked doing the bear crawl and showing off her best dance moves.
“My muscles are tired, but I feel good, like I have more energy,” she said. “It was a great way to wake up this morning; better than drinking coffee, I would say.”
It’s important to make exercising fun so students want to do it, both at school and at home, Wood said. She hopes students were able to see that they don’t have to spend money at a gym or be athletic to be healthy and active.
Student Max Campbell said all kids should be physically active so they are healthier and live longer.
“It keeps your heart healthy,” Max said.
For each station completed, students received a “victory mark” symbol on their hand or arm. Students quickly became excited about collecting as many marks as they could.
First-grader Reggie Polbito said he was able to make it around the field a total of six times.
“I got 49 victory stripes,” he said proudly.
Wood has been the Jump Rope for Heart coordinator for nearly 30 years at Seymour Community School Corp. She typically organizes jump rope events at the elementary school level that are indoors. She has taught physical education classes at all five of Seymour’s elementary schools at one time or another.
“With Brown being such a big school, it would have taken all week to get through Jump Rope for Heart,” she said. “This way, everyone got to participate in just one day.”
Students went out in shifts by grades, from preschool to fifth grade, so it was easier to keep an eye on them to make sure they were doing what they were supposed to be doing.
“Had I told them they had to go outside and just walk or run around the field, they would have looked at me like I was out of my mind,” Wood said.
Each station was manned by volunteers from a different community organization, business or agency, including Seymour Rotary, Child Care Network, United Way, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Girls Inc., the Boys and Girls Club, Schneck Medical Center, Jackson County Bank, Seymour police and fire departments and others.
“I thought it was a great day,” said Kate Garrity, executive director of Child Care Network, which oversees Kids Klub before- and after-school child care and the annual Kids Fest. “Typically, we set up information booths targeting parents and not the kids. As the kids came around, I heard comments like, ‘I go to Kids Klub’ and ‘I am going to summer Kids Klub’ or ‘I love going to Kids Fest.’
“I think it was great for the kids to see the different groups and see how they are involved in the community, as well,” she added.
Garrity said the walk was organized and had a great format for all kids to participate.
“It allowed the kids to go at their own pace and choose their level of activity,” she said.
Seymour High School athletes, with help from Sammy the Owl and Mayor Craig Luedeman, came out to kickoff the walk, encourage the younger students and motivate them to keep going.
“I liked getting high-fives from Sammy the Owl,” first-grader Symy White said.
Luedeman even presented an official proclamation marking the day Walk for Heart Day across the city and challenged residents of all ages to be more physically active.
“It really became a community event because so many people were asking how they could help our school,” Wood said.
Besides getting all of the students on their feet running or walking and at times galloping, crawling, leaping, dancing and rolling, the event also served as a fundraiser for the American Heart Association.
The association is a nonprofit organization that increases awareness of cardiovascular disease and stroke and funds care, research and prevention related to heart disease.
“I think it’s awesome that we are helping people in need,” Kindell said. “By doing this, we can help save lives, maybe even help kids our age.”
Students made posters about heart health, which were hung on the fence along the north end of the field for everyone to see.
The school raised a total of $4,902.52.
First-grader Hunter Taylor brought in $5 to donate to the cause.
“My grandma gave it to me,” Hunter said.
Alex was able to raise more than $100 thanks to people making donations on the Internet.
Wood said she hopes to be able to make the event a tradition at Brown Elementary.
“I think it turned out great, and we want to do it for years to come,” she said.