St. Ann's School in Midland kicks off campaign

Jan. 21—MIDLAND — More than 350 students in grades kindergarten-8 at St. Ann's School have set out to break the school's fundraising record with Kids Heart Challenge, the in-school curriculum rooted in proven science. The program has shown that kids who are regularly active can help kids feel better, improve mental health, build self-esteem, decrease and prevent conditions such as anxiety and depression.

The program is led by gym teacher Donna Reker, who is in her 29th year leading Kids Heart Challenge. St. Ann's raised more than $52,000 in 2022. The school raised $40,000 and $41,000 in 2020 and 2021, respectively. The 2023 campaign goes through Feb. 15.

Studies have shown that physical activity can help with mental health, and the American Heart Association, the world's leading nonprofit focused on heart and brain health for all, recognizes St. Ann's School for making the students' well-being a priority.

"Here at St. Ann's, our mission is about growing in our Catholic faith," Reker said in a news release. "Community service, such as fundraising for the AHA, is one way of carrying out that mission. The AHA and Kids Heart Challenge allow our students, teachers, and families to show our character in helping not only ourselves, but others — all while having a blast."

Reker's family has a history of heart disease and in some instances, it was fatal. Her husband is a stroke survivor. "I tell my students heart disease can affect anyone, but we can do our part by raising funds to help those in need," she said.

Student participation is driven in part by bragging rights and prizes. This year, students in the top fundraising class grades K-5 will have the opportunity to cover their teacher with Silly String at a school-wide celebration Feb. 23. Classes in each grade will compete against each other for an ice cream party, and classes who collectively raise $2,000 or more will receive an extra P.E. day outside or in the school's gymnasium.

Students in grades 6-8 participate in a different program, American Heart Challenge, which teaches middle school and high school students about a healthy lifestyle, engages them with the mission of the American Heart Association as they raise lifesaving funds and lets them have lots of fun physical activity at school.

Prizes for these students include extra free time and Popsicle's outside with their teacher. Students who raise $100 or more may enjoy an out-of-uniform day, and sixth-grade students who raise at least $100 will have the opportunity to participate in a dodgeball tournament.

"Kids love to help others. They cannot wait to get started every year," with Kids Heart Challenge, says Coach Reker. "The kids love to make a difference, and that is their biggest takeaway."

Funds raised by Kids Heart Challenge participants support the American Heart Association's scientific research and outreach programs, paving the way for technological breakthroughs to improve health outcomes while creating healthier communities. Depending on the amount of funds St. Ann's raises, it will receive thousands of dollars back in the form of AHA give-backs and incentives to be used for the physical education equipment for the school.

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