For the past 36 years, Kathy Calo has taught physical education (PE) at Wells Elementary School (WES) in Wells, Maine. Starting back in 1986, she kicked off the school’s very first Jump Rope for Heart program.
Under Calo’s leadership, WES has consistently ranked within the top three schools for fundraising in Maine year after year. Calo is retiring at the end of this school year after WES broke its own record for the largest amount raised at more than $25,500. In fact, WES students have together raised more than $282,000 since 1997 (the first year totals were recorded) and that amount does not even include the first 10 years that Calo ran the program.
“The success of this achievement lies with the overwhelming support of the Wells/Ogunquit community,” said Calo “It is the support of administration, classroom teachers, students, and families that unite to make this event a success.”
Each year, she designs a kick-off slideshow which outlines how students can get involved and why they play an integral part in its success. She shares what the Association does with its donations and how it extends its gratitude with school grant funds and “thank you” gifts to individual donors.
Because of its fundraising achievements, WES has received a significant amount of money toward equipment for their PE program. Schools are awarded 5% of their total fundraising amount in gift certificates to spend on PE materials for students which helps keep costs down.
Calo says the biggest motivator for her students is watching the Association-sponsored travel jump rope teams. “We were extremely fortunate to have had both the South Bristol Spindrifters Jump Rope Team and the Newmarket Hot Shots visit our school on a number of occasions. Without a doubt, these presentations were amazing demonstrations of skills that student jumpers had gained as a result of invested practice and exemplary teaching. To this day, Wells Elementary students remark on how impressed they were with these jump rope team presentations,” said Calo.
The Association provides educators with numerous resources that they can integrate into their curriculum. One way that Calo encourages students to learn more about both mental and physical wellness by familiarizing them with the program’s “Heart Hero” characters and their messages. Then, her students create a heart with their own personal challenge message which is posted on the WES “Heart Hero” board.
Calo implements cardiovascular health concepts along with teaching a variety of jump skills, and often emphasizes the importance of supporting and giving to others. She said her students get first-hand experience on how they as individuals can contribute to people less fortunate. Demonstrating their best effort and engaging in class activities is an integral message she promotes to her students.
Calo’s colleagues agree that the program benefits kids in multiple ways:
“Over the years the Jump-a-Thon/Kids Heart Challenge has had a very positive impact on my 3rd/4th grade students and on our school as a whole. Students have learned new individual fitness skills, decision making and teamwork. Students have been part of setting common goals of helping others while performing/showcasing what they’ve learned. Culminating each ‘Healthy Heart’ season with a fun celebration of movement, music and community is something each person takes away from the event.” – Mark Kafkas, 3rd grade teacher
“I believe that all participants take away a greater sense of the steps they may take to lead a heart healthy life, as well as validating the things they are already doing to contribute to their own happy, healthy life! Students develop amazing jump roping skills. Every year, I witness students practicing during recess. They challenge themselves to beat their own individual jumping records and to build their skills through this impressive practice. Teamwork is emphasized in the months leading up to the Jump-a-thon day, and that teamwork is evidenced by how all students share materials, take turns, encourage each other, and most importantly have fun!” – Mary Beth Clason, Multi 1-2 teacher
“The American Heart Association is an organization that has positively impacted the lives of thousands suffering from heart disease,” said Calo. “I highly respect their involvement in schools to assist teachers in educating children about the prevention of heart disease and the importance of adopting a healthy lifestyle. The Kids Heart Challenge program reinforces these concepts as students develop skills and knowledge while filling their hearts with joyful fun.”
She certainly has filled many hearts with joy, all while teaching healthy habits that will last over the course of her students’ lifetimes. With heartfelt thanks and immense gratitude, we wish Kathy Calo good health and happiness as she embarks on her retirement!
Click here for information about the Kids Heart Challenge.
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