American Heart Association Introduces New ‘Kids Heart Challenge’ to Schools

SIOUX FALLS S.D.- For the last 40 years the American Heart Association has worked to promote heart health in South Dakota elementary schools.This year they’re taking a different approach.

The American Heart Association is fighting back against heart disease. Their first line of defense: teaching kids healthy habits.

“With Heart disease being 80 percent preventable, we have an opportunity to go into the schools. Kids are going to learn a lot about how to take care of their heart, so when they’re older they don’t have some of these issues,” said Julie Boerhave, Youth Marketing Director for the American Heart Association.

John F. Kennedy Elementary School in Sioux Falls has participated for 20 years. Their students have enjoyed getting involved.

“You get to jump rope with other students and it’s a fun way to stay healthy,” said 5th grader, Katelyn Duin.

Teachers are looking forward to this year’s new program, the Kids Heart Challenge. It focuses on physical health, but it also aims to improve emotional well-being and character.

“I’m looking forward to that they’re looking at the whole student and not just the physical part of it, so they’re looking at the emotional and social part. You know life is changing and kids need to be looked at as a whole student,” said Kris Smith, JFK Physical Education Teacher.

There are different challenges kids choose from that they have two to three weeks to complete. Each challenge is assigned a character.Once completed students earn a key chain of the character.

“A lot of the characters talk about, you know staying away from salt, sugar, being more active and then little Echo here is ‘be you,’ be the best you, you can be,” said  Boerhave.

The new program also requires kids to do a good deed.

“It’s a great way to have them think about others and challenging themselves to give back to others because I think people need to step up a little bit and be kind to each other,” said Smith.

Students can also choose to fundraise to raise money for the American Heart Association to support research and programs.

Then at end of the challenge, they’ll celebrate their success with a physical activity like dancing or a warrior obstacle course.

Schools will also receive their own perks for participating. They can earn US Games certificates, which can be used to purchase new gym equipment sold in the US Games catalog.

The program begins in the spring and JFK will be one of around 180 schools in South Dakota participating in the challenge.

The American Heart Association is still looking for more schools to participate this school year.

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