Last month, the entire student population signed up for the "Hoops for Hearts" and "Jump Rope for Hearts" fundraisers, which are sponsored by the American Heart Association.
"This is the first time we're hosting this event, which was organized by Mr. [Michael] Leibowitz along with our district physical education superintendent," said Principal Beverly Lazarra. "We're trying to get kids back in shape."
"We're really trying to promote awareness of healthy behavior, and it's a worthwhile opportunity to get kids active," said John Fraraccio, district superintendent of health and physical education.
Grades five and six shot hoops last Tuesday, while the younger students participated in the fundraiser by jumping rope on Wednesday.
"It's really great; all the students get together and we have a lot of fun with everybody," said Suzet Diaz, 12, fifth grade.
"It's good; I play baseball, basketball and football every day, all day," said Chris Gonzalez, 10, fifth grade.
Before the culminating events last Tuesday and Wednesday, the students collected donations for the event from family, friends, and neighbors.
"The kids have been raising money for about a month," said Michael Leibowitz, physical education teacher for No. 2 School. "We gave the kids envelopes, and they basically asked their parents and their parents' friends."
"The entire school was able to participate as long as they brought in a permission slip," said Fraraccio.
Donations came in from about 50 cents to $100, and depending on how much money the kids raised, they were also eligible for prizes from a t-shirt to an mp3 player.
In the end, School No. 2 raised approximately about $5,500 for the American Heart Association.
The Hoops for Hearts and Jump Rope for Hearts fundraisers have been organized by the American Heart Association for the last few years, and have received nationwide acclaim.
In 2002, the organization became an official community partner of the WNBA (Women's National Basketball Association), and in 2003, 10 of the teams offered an event dedicated to Hoops for Heart and Jumps for Heart participants and their families, as well as Heart Association employees and supporters.
"They do it on a national basis, and this is the first time that it is being done in West New York," said Fraraccio. The school was actually introduced to the fundraisers by their new physical education teacher, Leibowitz, who had taught at Memorial High School for the last 10 years.
"I wanted to do something a little bit different [in physical education]," said Leibowitz. "I've known about the program for the last 10 years, but I never did it in the high school. I think it works a lot better at the grammar school level."
Since beginning in September, Leibowitz has also been teaching health classes with the school nurse instilling proper nutrition and promoting wellness.
"The nurse and I have been working together," Leibowitz said. "We're also trying to get more physical time for the kids."
Leibowitz is also introducing ideas such as routine weigh-ins for kids as part of overall health checkups, and informing parents if health concerns arise. New nutrition policies are also being drawn up in the state.
Only one heart
According to the American Heart Association, heart disease ranks as the nation's No. 1 killer. "Every years, about 950,000 Americans die from cardiovascular diseases and stroke," notes the association's literature.
The organization also states that over 15 percent of children and adolescents in the nation are now overweight, 4 million have above normal blood pressure, and 27 million have high cholesterol.
"[Jump Rope for Hearts and Hoops for Hearts] promote the value of physical activity to elementary school children while showing them that they can contribute to their communy's welfare," says the organization's website.
For more information on Hoops for Hearts and Jump Rope for Hearts, call (800) 242-8721.