Northeast School kindergartner Jonathan Rupert was one of nearly 400 Evergreen Park School District 124 students who helped raise more than $17,500 for the American Heart Association through the Kids Heart Challenge.
But for Rupert, who raised a district-high $948.06, the challenge was personal.
Rupert was born with holes in his heart and a misplaced valve, which led to open-heart surgery as a baby. So when he heard about the Kids Heart Challenge – which gives students an opportunity to learn about whole-body wellness, in addition to helping others by raising money for the AHA – he told his mother he wanted to participate to help others like him because “my heart was broken and they fixed it.”
So the Rupert family worked together with their network of supporters to help their favorite Heart Hero fundraise for the cause. Before long, they had raised nearly $1,000, and a once-shy six-year-old began coming out of his shell when he was honored in front of his classmates.
“Being recognized at an assembly, he was beaming and super excited,” Jonathan’s mother, Raquel, recalled. “I’m glad we did it because it gives him a little confidence. I’m so proud of him. To see him step out of himself and have that confidence boost, it was good to see.”
On top of its purpose as a fundraiser, the Kids Heart Challenge also helps kids improve their own health and better their character, and engages them with cardio-pumping challenges like jump rope, basketball skills, and more.
“The relationship that District 124 has developed with the American Heart Association really supports the notion of wellness that we have attempted to share with our students in many different ways,” D124 Superintendent Dr. Robert Machak said. “The Kids Heart Challenge, for example, teaches students not only about the dangers of a number of heart-related diseases that affect children across the country, such as obesity and type two diabetes, but also fits in with our notion of emotional wellness by allowing students to take part in activities that raise money and raise awareness to help others who are battling heart disease, as well.”
D124’s physical education teachers – Steve Karas (SE), Kelly Normoyle (NW), Kenneth Rodriguez (NE), and Jill Szkapiak (SW) – led the efforts at each of the District’s elementary schools. Southwest raised $6,189.10, Southeast raised $5,193.76, Northeast raised $3,850.51, and Northwest raised $2,396.23.
The American Heart Association has been working with schools across the country for 40 years to educate children about the importance of regular exercise and a healthy diet. The students also learn about the importance of volunteerism, as they engage their community to raise funds to support the lifesaving mission of the American Heart Association. Money raised helps support groundbreaking research, lifesaving professional education, and life-changing awareness programs.