State College Area students grab the rope and jump for charity

Sarah Neely jumps at a Jump Rope for Heart event Friday at Mount Nittany Elementary School . About $3,000 was raised
Sarah Neely jumps at a Jump Rope for Heart event Friday at Mount Nittany Elementary School . About $3,000 was raised CDT photo

Mount Nittany Elementary School Principal Debra Latta kicked off her high heels, grabbed a jump rope and began jumping in the elementary school gymnasium Friday.

Students gathered around her, cheered and then began jumping rope individually and teaming up to play double dutch.

On Friday, the school participated in “ Jump Rope for Heart,” a national initiative that helps raise money and awareness for the American Heart Association.

This year was the first year the event was brought to Mount Nittany Elementary School. With a goal to raise about $3,000, physical education teacher Jared Treece said more than $6,300 was raised in just a few weeks.

“It completely exceeded our expectations,” he said.

The students were given a task to help raise money for the organization. They took it upon themselves to can for money by asking friends, family and neighbors to contribute, Treece said.

And for one student, it hit close to home. His mother’s cousin, Dustin Kern, died from heart complications last month. Kern was in his early 40s.

“I’ve been practicing my jump-roping skills since,” said second-grader Brady Sanders, 8, of Boalsburg. “I know that being a part of this is more than just getting a prize for participating and raising money, but I’m now doing this because I know someone who had heart problems.”

Brady’s mother, Elaine Sanders, said the timing could not have been better.

“It puts a lot into perspective for Brady,” she said. “He has taken this negative news and channeled it into something positive. He came home with this information and found it as motivation to use this event as a tribute to Dusty.”

And Brady’s message to his peers is to “grab a jump rope, and take that baby outside to play.”

“Being active is important no matter how old you are,” Brady said.

Jump Rope for Heart has been around for 35 years, usually designated for one day at State College Area High School each year.

When Treece found out that students at the school didn’t have the means of transportation to get to the high school, he wanted to bring the event to them.

And Latta jumped on board with his idea.

“I was hesitant for a second, then gave in,” Latta said. “The event has received such a positive response, I’m not sure how we wouldn’t do it again next year and for many years to come.”

About 400 students from the school took time out of their day to jump rope. Some class schedules were rearranged so second to fifth-grade students had the chance to join in.

Treece said he uses this as a way to teach kids to be active as well.

“It’s for these kids to have fun and promote heart health in the meantime,” Treece said. “I think it’s been a lot of fun and they’re learning about something that can impact anyone.”