|2/14/2008 12:00:00 PM||Email this article • Print this article|
A heart-pumping effort at Big Bend school
Inspired by loved ones, St. Joseph students raise money for heart research
By Karen Mahoney
BIG BEND – It isn’t often you can transform liveliness into capital.
But St. Joseph Grade School students did that Feb. 4, using their jump rope, Hula-Hoop and basketball skills to raise money for the American Heart Association.
“They had so much fun, it was a great time and it got a lot bigger than last year’s event,” said physical education teacher Cindy Groth, who organized the Jump Rope/Hoops For Heart event, the school’s annual heart disease awareness fund-raiser.
Last year students brought in more than $6,000 from donors to jump rope for the day-long event. With nearly 100 percent participation in the school of 120, students begin learning about healthy eating and exercise in gym class, practice jump roping and finish by bringing in a fund-raising envelope for the event. The gymnasium is decorated with colorful “heart healthy posters.”
While totals aren’t in for this year’s event, Groth anticipates higher totals because the event was especially significant to students this year.
“Yeah, this year was really personal for the students, and much more meaningful,” she said.
For eighth grader Kurt Bushey, the cause is particularly close because of the recent death of his 45-year-old father, Mike, who died of a massive heart attack just weeks ago.
“It was really hard this time, but all I kept thinking was that I wanted to raise more money this year in honor of my dad,” Kurt said. “I hope they can find a cure for heart disease soon.”
The 14-year-old relies on his Catholic faith to prepare him for the tough times ahead. According to a surprised Groth, Kurt directed his sorrow to prepare for his father’s funeral held in the school days before the fund-raiser.
“I couldn’t believe him, throughout all of this, he didn’t miss even one day of school,” she said. “He wanted to be near the other students that he is so close to and he wanted to set up the gym for his dad’s funeral. I think it must have been very healing for him … he must get it from his mom because she plan-ned the luncheon; her faith must be incredible.”
While some children might exhibit bitterness toward God for taking their fat-her, Kurt’s faith has been strengthened because of the promise of the resurrection and the knowledge that his dad is watching over him.
“I think he was proud of me at the fund-raiser,” Kurt said, “and thinking of him has made me grow closer to God.”
The event also held special meaning for seventh grade teacher Winnie Sartoris, who suffers with cardiomyopathy and wears an im-plantable pacemaker/defibrillator to control her heart rhythm. She also takes medication to regulate her heart.
“There is an immeasurable meaning for me,” she said. “These are the kids with whom I spend my days and with whom I have steady contact for their four years in the classes I teach here at St. Joseph School. The students included me in their dedication of the 2007 event, as it was two months after my initial diagnosis and hospitalization, and their inclusion of me this year means just as much.”
Sartoris admits that she is but one of many faces of heart disease, but is honored that students may be thinking of her as they collect their donations or participating in the event.
“I am always really proud of the effort the kids give to this event and the excitement with which they plan and prepare for it,” she said. “They are always psyched at how much money they raise for a good cause, and they learn how good it feels to help others by giving of their own energy and time. I always remind my seventh graders that Jesus cured people of their ills because of their faith, along with his compassion for their physical ailments. Their faith in the results of their efforts joined with their fund-raising work, is helping medical professionals to create cures for others, and the kids get this every year during this event.”
Whether they are 5 years old or 14 years old, Sartoris believes that each student understands the importance of helping and reaching out to others.
“They put it into practice every year for Jump Rope and Hoops for Heart,” she said. “I wear my T-shirt from this event with great pride in them and with a humble heart.”
A third reminder that heart disease knows no age limits is with Paul Koscinski, the 2-year-old brother of Peter and Joe, a fourth grader and first grader respectively. According to Groth, Paul was born with holes in his heart and a deformed heart valve.
“Everyone loves little Paulie,” she said. “When they see him in his wheelchair (not) able to walk, it really hits home with these kids. They have such a good heart for him and for Miss Sartoris and Kurt’s dad. One thing that is so cool about this school is that there is no bad egg in the bunch. We have some really cools kids who care about each other.”