This isn’t your dad’s Jump Rope for Heart. With a P.A. system pumping out fun, upbeat tunes, multi-colored lights swirling across the ceiling and a myriad of glowing jump ropes twirling through the darkness of a gym blanketed with black lights, the first grade students of Valley Creek Elementary are having a blast.

“Valley Creek’s Jump Rope for Heart is very special,” says McKinney ISD Coordinator of Health and P.E. Karin Klemm, “[and one reason is] because of P.E. Coach Jordan Tennis, who goes above and beyond in everything she does. And, one thing she’s doing this year for Jump Rope for Heart is…lighted jump ropes.”

The Valley Creek PTA and Crape Myrtle Trail Fund donated money for that, but Tennis provides the energy that keeps things moving forward throughout this all-day event. First through fifth graders pour excitedly into the gym during their P.E. classes to take part in glowing jump rope relays, hula hoop contests—and a lot of laughter.

Tennis and Klemm grab hoops and compete with the kids during the hula contest, and they’re pretty good. But, some of these kids are true masters, and Tennis calls out new challenges—hula while jumping, hula on one leg—that eventually decide a winner.

Fun is the prevailing theme, but there is another, more important purpose behind all of it.

“We do Jump Rope for Heart at Valley Creek in conjunction with the American Heart Association, and we do it for two really basic reasons,” says Tennis. “The first one is to [raise money to] help those who are born with sick hearts. The American Heart Association does a lot of research to help cure those illnesses that people are born with or [that they] maybe develop…as they get older.

“The second thing they do is focus on the students and families to help them have heart healthy activity and to be conscious of their heart health,” she says.

MISD Superintendent Dr. Rick McDaniel is also on hand for the event to greet and encourage students.

“Within a district the size of McKinney ISD, there are many, many different programs that we’re proud of,” says McDaniel. “Certainly, the Jump Rope for Heart program is one that is at the top of that list. We’re extremely proud of all the efforts our students have made, not only participating in the event but in raising money for the American Heart Association. Again, it’s a shining example of what McKinney ISD is all about. We love our students. We love that they’re about giving back to the community and to organizations, and more importantly, we’re proud of the example that our teachers and administrators are setting for these young kids as they progress through their educational career.”

Jump Rope for Heart began in 1978 as a fundraiser for the American Heart Association, and according to a 2014 news release from the organization, has raised more than $750 million to fund research and education about heart disease and is held at more than 28,000 schools.

For additional information on McKinney ISD, contact Shane Mauldin, MISD Communications Coordinator, at 469-302-4007 or smauldin@mckinneyisd.net.