GPPSS students wear their hearts on their sleeves

By: Maria Allard | Grosse Pointe Times | Published June 26, 2021

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GROSSE POINTES — The elementary school students in the Grosse Pointe Public School System opened their hearts again this year to help the American Heart Association.

The young students participated in the AHA’s Kids Heart Challenge, formerly known as Jump Rope For Heart. Through different activities, children learned the importance of taking care of their bodies physically and mentally, while also raising money for the AHA. Students asked family members, friends, neighbors and other sources for monetary donations.

At the June 14 GPPSS Board of Education meeting held at Brownell Middle School, AHA Youth Market Director Renee Kendall presented an overview on how the GPPSS Kids Heart Challenge wrapped up for the 2020-21 school year. Kendall has been working on AHA fundraisers with the elementary school students for the past five years, but the district has been involved in the program for 27 years.

Together, the district’s seven elementary schools raised a collective total of $52,670 for AHA programs and services this past year. At the meeting, Kendall gave a “shoutout” to the elementary school physical education teachers who led this year’s Kids Heart Challenge. They were: Ron Kochan, from Monteith; Nicol Brumme, from Ferry; Ronald Masters, from Kerby; Caitlin Kefgen, from Mason and Maire; Kristy Kisskalt, from Richard and Mason; and Courtney Kliman, from Defer.  

The AHA is a nonprofit organization devoted to combating heart disease and strokes. Fundraising efforts are used to support research, stronger public health policies, and information to save and improve lives.

“Last March when COVID first hit, the American Heart Association was able to provide free CPR and ventilator training to first responders and to health care professionals,” Kendall said. “That’s just one example of so many things that we do in the community as an organization and as a nonprofit. We would not be able to do things like that without the support of school districts and schools and PE teachers just like all of those schools in Grosse Pointe.”

Because of COVID-19, the teachers had to think of new, creative ways in which to engage students in the program.

“They did an incredible job. We are just so incredibly thankful for all that your school district and these PE teachers and school community have done this year and over the last 27 years,” Kendall said.

“Even through a pandemic, we were able to move through a process of making ourselves healthy, our bodies and minds, and taking a look at how we can support people around the world,” GPPSS Director of Elementary Instruction Keith Howell said.

For more information on the American Heart Association, visit