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Second graders raise funds for American Heart Association

By Staff | Feb 21, 2019

PHOTO PROVIDED These 4 second graders from Ashkar Elementary School in Hughesville raised the most pledges for Jump Rope for Heart. Clockwise from top are Ben Buynak, Asher Ulmer, Jayden Gentzyel, and Casey Schultz.

HUGHESVILLE – Second grade students at Ashkar Elementary School in Hughesville were very excited the morning of Thursday, February 14. “This year is the best ever,” said Sherry Cowburn, School Principal.

The students have been participating in this event for the past 20 consecutive years in the 40 year history of the ‘Jump Rope for Heart’ program, and this year they raised the most money with their pledges.

Samantha Sherman, one of the second grade teachers and organizers of the school event said they collected close to 4 thousand dollars this year, and over $40,000 during the twenty years of participation.

At 9 a.m. 80 students had the opportunity to jump rope, hula hoop, skip, dance or participate in a physical activity with movement for an hour in the school gymnasium while upbeat music played for motivation.

The Jump Rope for Heart fundraising program was established in 1983 for schools to encourage kids to have a positive attitude towards exercise, healthy eating and heart health while raising funds to fight heart disease. The program runs all year long and each school chooses when they want to run it. Cowburn said they always do it in February for two weeks.

BARB BARRETT/The Luminary Desiree Craig of Hughesville is with her son, Jayden Gentzyel, who was born with a heart defect and raised $1,335 for the American Heart Association this year.

This year one of the students, Jayden Gentzyel, raised the most money at $1,335.

According to his mother, Desiree Craig of Hughesville, this was a special moment for Jayden who was born prematurely with a heart defect. “Eight years ago today, February 14, Jayden should have been born,” she said. “He decided he wanted to be born in November of 2010. He had three holes in his heart. One was supposed to be there due to fetal circulation. The other two weren’t. Once the normal one closed, the top hole in his heart closed, so all that was left was the last hole between the two bottom chambers of his heart (VSD, Ventral septal Defect).”

Jayden spent three months at Janet Weis Children’s Hospital at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville. When he was just one month old, he went into congestive heart failure. The hole in his heart got progressively worse and Jayden was admitted into two hospitals before they realized he would need open heart surgery. His mother said the medications were not working and he had stopped growing. He was flown by helicopter to A.I. Dupont Children’s hospital in Wilmington, Delaware for his open heart surgery. A week later he was back at Geisinger.

” Jayden is now 8 years old and aside from being a little on the small side, he is doing wonderfully,” said his mother. “He is very active and loves to play. He was super excited to raise as much money as he could for Jump Rope for Heart. Jayden is truly a miracle child.”

Many of the students donated their funds in memory, or in honor of a loved one or family member. They saw videos of other children living with heart disease. Sherman said, “It is fun to see them excited as they are raising money, and they can relate to it with others.”

BARB BARRETT/The Luminary Avery Bergey jumped for one hour on Thursday morning, Feb. 14 at Ashkar’s gymnasium for Jump Rope for Heart, a fundraising program for heart disease.