By Johnny Jackson
The gymnasium erupted with the sound of cheers from eager young students, as they watched their peers perform tricks, with their jump ropes.
One jump rope artist, 10-year-old Chris Staples, acknowledged his excitement to see the conclusion of Flippen Elementary School's "Jump Rope For Heart" fund-raiser.
"It was exciting, and fun," said Staples, a fifth-grader at the school.
"It was epic," interrupted another student.
Flippen students, and faculty, took part in a recent assembly, supporting the American Heart Association's Jump Rope For Heart Program. It promotes physical activity, heart-healthy living, and community service to benefit children.
"They raise money for kids with sick hearts," young Staples said.
The program is targeted at students in elementary schools, to raise funds for heart research, and spread awareness of heart disease throughout the community, according to Rita Davis, the American Heart Association's youth marketing director, in Marietta, Ga.
Davis said more than 80 percent of the schools in Henry County have been supportive of the Jump Rope For Heart Program for years.
"It's good to teach them healthy habits," said Davis.
She said childhood obesity has tripled over the past 15 years, leaving young people with a lower life expectancy.
"I actually watched my grandfather die in front of me, of a heart attack," she said.
The marketing director applauded Flippen as one of the more successful fund-raising schools in the Jump Rope For Heart Program. The school has raised nearly $41,000, since it opened eight years ago.
Cindy Poudrier, who organizes the annual fund-raiser, reported the school has so far, this year, raised more than $3,400 for Jump Rope for Heart.
"It was awesome," said Poudrier, the school's health and physical education instructor. "The kids were so awesome. I was so proud."
Students who raised at least $5 for the cause, were allowed to "slime" their principal, Toni Obenauf, their assistant principal, Johnny Harrell, and Poudrier. They did this during the school's March 11, Jump Rope For Heart assembly.
Six-year-old Garrett Oravetz appeared to enjoy pouring a cup full of slime (a mix of apple sauce and food coloring) over Harrell's head. The kindergarten pupil raised about $100, by soliciting family members and neighbors, according to his mother Kelli Oravetz.
"It is a great cause, we need healthy hearts," said his mother.