Dallas, Texas - The American Heart Association, the world’s leading nonprofit organization focused on heart and brain health for all, marks 40 years of bringing heart health programs to schools across the country by awarding financial grants to invest in America’s schools and help educators make whole-body wellness a priority.

The American Heart Association’s Kids Heart Challenge™ awarded more than $400,000 to more than 170 elementary schools who participated in the program’s inaugural year, 2018-19. The Kids Heart Challenge offers four physical activations to get students’ hearts pumping: jumping rope, practicing basketball skills, dancing or completing an obstacle course. The curriculum prepares kids for success by supporting their physical and emotional well-being, offers new learning resources and physical activities to meet the needs of today’s youth and educators.

Grant recipients are now able to implement a variety of wellness activities with additions such as physical activity equipment, a mobile salad bar, CPR training resources, water bottle filling stations and educator training opportunities on their campuses.

“Schools are a critical link in providing the foundation for cardiovascular wellness in our country by helping students develop healthy habits at an early age,” said Tanya Edwards, executive vice president of community development and health for the American Heart Association. “The Kids Heart Challenge helps students learn about heart health, find fun ways to stay physically active, provide valuable physical education curriculum. With the addition of the grant program, teachers gain access to funds to take their efforts to the next level, making an even greater impact on their students, families and local communities.”

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans only 20% of kids get enough activity to meet physical activity recommendations. The Kids Heart Challenge is rooted in proven science which has shown that kids who are regularly active have a better chance of a healthy adulthood.

In addition to improved physical health, the benefits of physical activity for children include better grades, school attendance and classroom behavior. Physical activity can also help kids feel better, improve mental health, build self-esteem, and decrease and prevent conditions such as anxiety and depression.

Funds raised by Kids Heart Challenge participants support the American Heart Association’s scientific research and outreach programs, paving the way for technological breakthroughs to improve health outcomes while creating healthier communities. Schools are encouraged to register now for the Kids Heart Challenge to bring expanded curriculum resources to their classrooms in the 2019-20 school year. All participating schools are eligible to apply for grants ranging from $250 to $3,500.

“With funds our school received from the Kids Heart Challenge, we were able to purchase equipment that promotes additional movement throughout the school day,” said Kimberly Zombek, teacher for grades 3-5 at Trafford Elementary School in Trafford, Pennsylvania. “By providing an outlet for their energy through physical activity, we are helping build healthier minds and bodies.”

Examples of the 2018-19 grant recipients include:

  • Alpine Elementary in Alpine, Texas - $2,526.50 purchased rhythm sticks for students to learn rhythm routines in their physical education classes
  • Belle Valley Elementary School in Erie, Pennsylvania - $3,174 provided activity resources for K-2 classrooms
  • Berea Community Elementary School in Berea, Kentucky - $4,750 helped add buddy benches, a recess cart and activity equipment
  • Christa McAuliffe Middle School in Boynton Beach, Florida - $4,800 to make CPR training equipment available for students and staff
  • Pahoa Elementary School in Pahoa, Hawaii - $3,500 provided a new track and physical education equipment, including uniforms and cones

To learn more about other school programs, or to make a donation to the American Heart Association, please visit www.heart.org.