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Jumping to make a difference

Sparta — It wasn’t the first time Sparta students took part in the Kid’s Heart Challenge (formerly known as Jump Rope for Heart), but this year they worked so hard that they nearly doubled any previous donation total. The young Spartans brought in $11,865.27 to donate to the American Heart Association, whereas the highest donation from Sparta schools prior to this year was about $5,900. 

Both Appleview and Ridgeview elementary students participated, and the challenge was personal for many, said Andy Wagner, physical education teacher at Ridgeview Elementary: “We have many staff and students/families who are affected personally from heart disease. This fundraising event allows even our youngest learners to feel like they are making a difference in their community.”

Throughout the challenge, the focus at Ridgeview was on jump-roping and team jumping, according to Wagner. “The kids learned how to properly turn a jump-rope; some even ventured into trying some jumping tricks,” he said. 

The school created a jump-rope “wall of fame,” and students solicited funds from relatives and friends to support the American Heart Association. Those who raised $100 or more for the cause or who were able to complete multiple consecutive jumps in the challenge earned a spot on the wall and extra recesses.

Ridgeview Elementary students participated in the annual fundraiser by jump-roping

At Appleview, the challenge helped students set goals for eating healthy foods and exercising, but the school also emphasized the importance of serving others as they raised money.

“If you ask kids why they participate, many of them would say ‘to earn the little prizes,’ but deep down, we are helping the kids build giving, selfless hearts,” said Kevin Shunneson, Appleview’s physical education teacher.

The big prize for an Appleview student was the opportunity to throw a pie in Shunneson’s face if they individually raised $50 or more for the cause. Resource teacher Tyler Harms and Principal Mike Birely agreed to take a couple of pies in the face as well.

Despite the messy ending to the fundraiser, Shunneson says the time spent was worthwhile. 

“The fundraiser helps those we know and love, and others in our community,” he said. “The second reason that I participate is that I want my students to start to think about ways they can impact the community, even as elementary students.”

Appleview third-grader Henry Kline gets ready to put a pie in the face of teacher Kevin Shunneson, who came up with the idea as a reward for each student who raised $50 or more
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Janice Holst
Janice Holst is a reporter covering Kent City and Sparta. She has been both a teacher and a journalist. A former MLive reporter, she wrote features and covered local government and schools for Advance Newspapers for nearly two decades. She also was a recipe columnist and wrote features for Mature Life Style and occasional entertainment pieces for On The Town magazines. She lives in Sparta Township and enjoys spending some of her retirement hours writing the stories of the northern Kent County school districts. Read Janice's full bio

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