Maryland Schools Raise Over $1.6 Million, Welcome Youth Heart Ambassadors

For over 43 years, the American Heart Association (AHA) has helped prepare kids for success by supporting their physical, mental, and emotional well-being through the Kids Heart Challenge and American Heart Challenge.

Now more than ever, it takes an extraordinary commitment to support students’ overall health. The AHA recommends children age 6 to 17 get at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day, but less than one-quarter of today’s youth are meeting this benchmark. Furthermore, fewer than 10% of kids are following a healthy, nutritious diet, and carrying extra weight during childhood poses serious health risks into adulthood.

Given the vital role these early years play, the AHA’s school initiatives assist educators in ensuring all students can grow to reach their full potential.

In Maryland, 217 schools partnered with the AHA to leverage our learning resources and physical education activities in the classroom. During the 2021-2022 academic year, over 16,000 kids accepted the challenge to be kind or move more, and many shared resources with their families to learn Hands-Only CPR, recognize the signs of a stroke, or help their loved ones get active.

Collectively, Maryland schools raised over $1.6 million to help save and improve lives across the globe, and those raising at least $1,500 received direct givebacks to benefit their students. Check out our report card to see your impact this year, and shoutout to our top 10 participating schools!

Maryland Schools Raise Over $1.6 Million, Welcome Youth Heart Ambassadors

Join us in welcoming and celebrating the lives and stories of our local Ambassadors!

In preparation for the 2022-2023 academic year, the AHA Greater Washington and Greater Baltimore regions proudly introduces four local Youth Heart Ambassadors based in Montgomery, St. Mary’s and Carroll counties. Ambassadors are the heart of our in-school programs, sharing their stories and elevating their voices to inspire their peers to live healthier lives.

Maryland Schools Raise Over $1.6 Million, Welcome Youth Heart AmbassadorsMeet Jadon

Grade 4 | Montgomery County Public Schools

Jadon was born with Tetralogy of Fallot, a common congenital heart defect, and at 6 months old, he underwent open-heart surgery to save his life. Today, he is an active and healthy fourth-grader who plays soccer, takes karate classes, and enjoys spending time with his family and pet snail Samson.

“I want people – especially kids – to learn about the heart and ways to keep it healthy. I want to tell kids what happened to me to help anyone who may be going through what I went through,” Jadon shared about why he passionately supports the Kids Heart Challenge.

Maryland Schools Raise Over $1.6 Million, Welcome Youth Heart AmbassadorsMeet Hope

Grade 5 | Montgomery County Public Schools

When Hope was born, doctors discovered her left artery was displaced. She had a heart murmur, which required strict monitoring for several years. An energetic 10-year-old, she is a cheerleader, basketball player and swimmer.

“I want to spread hope to other heart patients by supporting the American Heart Association,” Hope shared regarding her excitement to serve as a local Ambassador.

Maryland Schools Raise Over $1.6 Million, Welcome Youth Heart AmbassadorsMeet Jaylin

Grade 3 | St. Mary’s County Public Schools

At the age of 2, Jaylin was diagnosed with Kawasaki disease (KD), which causes inflammation in the blood vessels and coronary arteries. Boys are 1.5 times more likely to get KD, and about 77% of all cases occur in children under the age of 5.

“His strength gave us strength,” his mother reflected on Jaylin’s time in the hospital receiving infusions and lifesaving treatment. Today, Jaylin is a healthy 8-year-old who enjoys playing outside, basketball and running.

“Now, I am better and am able to do anything,” Jaylin said. “I want to help people have healthy hearts. I like the Kids Heart Challenge and the American Heart Association because they help people.”

Maryland Schools Raise Over $1.6 Million, Welcome Youth Heart AmbassadorsMeet Sophia

Grade 7 | Carroll County Public Schools

Sophia was born with a congenital heart defect called Tetralogy of Fallot with pulmonary atresia, which means there were five abnormalities in her heart. She was also born early, at 34 weeks, weighing just 3 pounds and 7 ounces. She had her first echocardiogram just hours into her life, the first of nearly a dozen heart catheterizations at 3 days old, and her first reconstructive heart surgery at 2-and-a-half months.

“Thanks to advances in cardiovascular research and technology that have been funded by the American Heart Association, I’m able to live a full and happy life, something that a few decades ago might not have been possible for someone who was born CHD like I was,” Sophia says.

“She’s an active 11-year-old who loves life,” her mother, Jennifer, says. “Her strength, her bravery makes me a very proud mom. She really is a heart hero to me.”

Schools interested in participating in either Kids Heart Challenge or American Heart Challenge can learn more on Heart.org or contact Cara.Santucci@Heart.org for more information.