Roughly 900 students at Adam Elementary in Santa Maria danced, dribbled, hula hooped and jumped their way to heart health Friday morning, raising $3,200 in pledges for the American Heart Association and children with heart disease.
"This has been going on for three weeks," said Maureen Staunton, teacher and one of the organizers of the event. "Students have been raising money, giving facts and making announcements about heart health over the PA system."
The annual Jump Rope for Heart event mirrors those held at schools across the country. Featuring a jump rope, hula hoop, basketball dribbling and dance stations, Staunton said students were looking forward to Friday's special recess for months and were excited to see widespread participation.
Dressed in a semi-inflatable "Disco" — a multicolored monster and part of the American Heart Association's youth-oriented Scare Squad marketing campaign — Tonya Wagner, youth market director, spent much of her morning dancing with and encouraging the students.
"Disco is different colors because she tells us to have lots of fruits, vegetables and color on our plate," said Wagner, explaining that the character, along with six other Scare Squad monsters, was designed to share a heart-healthy message with elementary school students. The outreach campaign, she said, is more effective than traditional methods of engaging with adults.
"The kids really enjoyed the Scare Squad this year," she added. "They're familiar with the characters because they've seen them in all the activities they've done the past few weeks."
Taking a break from the morning's activities, Kimberly Coronel, 10, and Joselyn Chavez, 11, said they had fun dancing at the event.
"All the teachers — even the yard duty [supervisors] — were dancing," said Coronel, who jumped rope 25 times. Chavez agreed, adding that she wishes they could do it every day.
"Having the music and letting them dance is such a big deal to them," Staunton said. "They love having the music and watching the teachers come out during their break, too. When this ends, several students come up to me and ask if they can do it every day. They love the recess so much."