Originally published Nov. 9, 2018 in the Gering Courier.

By Jeff Fielder

Students at Lincoln Elementary School in Gering are participating in a challenge to keep their heart healthy.

Helena Beyer, the American Heart Association’s youth market director for central and western Nebraska, gave a presentation about the Kids Heart Challenge to students at Lincoln Elementary School on Thursday morning.

Photo by Jeff Fielder

The challenge focuses on students avoiding sugary drinks, doing at least one good deed, and exercising for 60 minutes every day.

The Kids Heart Challenge typically last three weeks, and during that time, students do fun exercises in physical education classes while also learning about the importance of keeping the heart healthy.

Also during the three-week Kids Heart Challenge, parents are encouraged to register their kids online for the challenge and to make a donation to the American Heart Association.

“The Kids Heart Challenge is a great way to help kids really focus on ways to keep their heart healthy,” Beyer said. “This will help them physically, and it will also help them learn ways to improve their life socially and emotionally.”

In previous years, the American Heart Association promoted Jump Rope for Heart and Hoops for Heart, fundraising programs that also promoted the importance of keeping one’s heart healthy.

The American Heart Association changed its program this year, however, calling it the Kids Heart Challenge. A big reason for the change, Beyer said, was to also incorporate doing good deeds.

“That’s where the social and emotional parts come in, getting kids to do something that’s good for them and also for other people,” she said.

Chelsey Loomis, a physical education teacher at Lincoln Elementary School, likes that the program also promotes doing good deeds.

“Doing something nice for someone else makes them happy and it also makes you feel better, and that helps keep your heart healthy,” she said. “Anytime you can reduce your stress level, that helps your heart.”

Loomis said she looks forward to promoting the three main areas of the Kids Heart Challenge to her students during the next couple weeks. On Thursday – the first day of the challenge – posters were already on the walls in the gym emphasizing ways to keep one’s heart healthy.

“I really use this time to drill into them that choosing water over sugary drinks and getting 60 minutes of physical activity every day are so important,” she said. “They want to come to PE and play games, but they need to know what that’s doing for them on a deeper level.”

One way Loomis achieves that is by showing her students how physical activity strengthens their heart.

“I have a heart rate monitor and – especially with the older kids – I’ll have them do workouts and then I’ll put the heart rate monitor on them to let them see how fast their heart is beating. It’s just to let them know that what we’re doing is truly helping their heart,” she said.

During the three-week Kids Heart Challenge, Loomis said Lincoln Elementary School’s goal is to raise $5,000 in donations. Donations can be made on the American Heart Association’s website. Donation envelopes also were sent home with students on Thursday, and those envelopes can be returned to the school anytime during the challenge. The money raised will go to the American Heart Association.

“I’m excited about this. This is my fifth year doing this program, and it’s always gone really well,” Loomis said. “We’ve always had a lot of support from the community and from parents.”

Beyer said a number of other schools in western Nebraska also participate in the Kids Heart Challenge. Each school decides when it wants to start the three-week program.

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    Lincoln Elementary School students participating in Kids Heart Challenge
    Students at Lincoln Elementary School in Gering, Neb., are participating in a challenge to keep their heart healthy.
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