Helping hearts WNY school district raises over $15K for the American Heart Association

“I like exercise and playing,” said Jeremy Fabian, 5, last week as he got ready for his next event during the “Hoops for Hearts” and “Jump Rope for Hearts” national fundraisers at West New York public schools No. 2 and 3.

Sponsored by the American Heart Association, the events promote health awareness and the value of physical activity to elementary school children.

“A lot of activities are set up to get their heart rate going,” said Michael Leibowitz, physical education teacher at No. 2 School. “We have hopscotch that helps with coordination, and hopping through the hula-hoops, which also teaches them to recognize colors.”

The younger grades jump rope while the older kids practice their skills on the basketball court.

This is West New York’s second year participating in “Hoops for Hearts” and “Jump Rope for Hearts,” and so far the town has raised about $15,000 for the American Heart Association.

District-wide celebrations

No. 2 School first embraced the fundraiser to promote general wellness and combat childhood obesity.

“As a district we have made a turn to combat childhood obesity, and the district has been very supportive of what we are trying to do,” said John Fraraccio, district supervisor of health and physical education.

Last year, School No. 2 raised about $5,200 and, according to Fraraccio, the school has raised close to $6,000 this year.

“It was something we started at School No. 2 to see how it worked and it was successful,” said Fraraccio. “Now other teachers decided they wanted the event in their schools.”

“It’s really working out well,” said Leibowitz. “We had a lot more participation this year.”

“We’re doing jump rope for our hearts to give us energy,” said Jerry Rodriguez, 8. “I like everything I have to do.”

“I like jumping on the circles,” said Adama Wane, 6.

Also joining the fundraising effort this year was School No. 1, who celebrated the event on April 18 and raised close to $5,600. School No. 5 held their event on April 19 and 20, raising $2,500.

“We fund-raise during February,” said Fraraccio. “The kids are given collection envelopes and encouraged to get donations from family and friends. Once we turn in the money, we have our celebration events in April.”

Promoting healthy hearts

Because February is American Heart Month across the nation, the schools conducted many student activities about eating right and exercise prior to last week’s event.

There were also poster competitions and daily announcements of heart facts.

“Then this is what it all leads up to,” said Fraraccio. “They have a regular school day and we bring down each grade for about an hour, and they are active for about that entire hour and 15 minutes.”

The American Heart Association provides gifts for students, such as t-shirts and New Jersey Nets tickets, according to how much money they raise.

The fundraiser also gives a portion to the physical education departments of the schools that participate. “We get a voucher to buy more fitness equipment,” said Fraraccio. “Each school will get about $500.”

This year West New York Middle School also jumped on board, and will be conducting their event April 26. “It will probably become a district-wide thing in the upcoming years,” said Fraraccio. “We are just trying to get the people in the district to be healthier.”

For more information on the program, call (800) 242-8721. Jessica Rosero can be reached at


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