Northwood gym teacher ‘hearts’ jump rope program

School raises more than $8,000 for American Heart Association

By: Victoria Mitchell | Royal Oak Review | Published March 18, 2015


ROYAL OAK — When physical education teacher Keith Doody had the opportunity to bring a favorite childhood program to Northwood Elementary School, he was all in.

That the Jump Rope for Heart program surpassed expectations — it raised $8,261 for the American Heart Association — made the happening even more fulfilling.

“The total amount far exceeded anyone’s expectations,” Doody said. “Even the coordinator for Jump Rope for Heart was under the impression we would raise about $2,000, $3,000. The coordinator said it was one of the largest amounts, not just for Royal Oak, but for the surrounding cities, as well, with the exception of Birmingham.”

Doody said the large amount of money raised at the end of February is a testament to the Northwood families.

“It speaks not to just the school but the surrounding area, as well,” he said. “The community of Royal Oak is just a very charitable community that people look out to help, and what better way to help than the American Heart Association.”

Northwood Principal Angela Ashburn said she was excited when Doody proposed the idea for Jump Rope for Heart.

“He did a wonderful job promoting the program, connecting with the art teacher, integrating that discipline with the physical aspect in his program,” she said. “We have a very giving and supportive community, and I was once again amazed by their generous support of this cause.”

Of equal relevance, Doody said, is that the kids learned about the importance of having a healthy heart. All students watched an American Heart Association video about heart health that featured firsthand accounts from children who have heart disease.

“They understood what it means to have a healthy heart and understood that there are other people out there that are less fortunate, and that there are different ways to help,” Doody said.

This was the first year that all elementary students at Northwood, approximately 490,  participated in the event. Kids asked for donations in person and online.

Children received small, plastic ducks from the association that they wear around their necks on lanyards, which Doody said became quite an incentive. Doody explained that each duck also represented a life saved, which was an equally important motivator for the kids.

Northwood art teacher Alesha Beistline also participated in the initiative. She had students create their impressions of what the heart looks like.

After the money was raised, Doody hosted a jump rope event where all students participated. Students learned jump roping techniques leading up to the event.

“The jump rope aspect of it is great because it teaches them how to build a strong heart in terms of being active, so that part of it is great, and then the charitable aspect, as well, to be able to help out those in need,” he said.

Doody still has vivid memories of participating in the Jump Rope for Heart program as a student at Oak Ridge Elementary School.

“I remember being at the event and jumping until I couldn’t jump any longer,” he said. “And my jumping skills — I really learned.”

Doody said Oak Ridge Elementary School physical education teacher Mike Lewis was his mentor and Doody had hoped he would be able to host the program as Lewis did.

“I looked up to him and a lot of things that he did,” Doody said. “I felt very fortunate, and that is something that I wanted to pass on to the kids here.”

In addition to Northwood and Oak Ridge, Oakland and Keller elementary schools also have participated in the initiative.