Jumping rope has been a lifetime activity for Hamden Hall Country Day School physical education teacher Mark McEachern, and now the pastime has garnered him uplifting state and national recognition by the American Heart Association.
McEachern was named the 2011-2012 Jump Rope for Heart Coordinator of the Year for the state of Connecticut. Jump Rope for Heart is an annual event that raises funds for the American Heart Association that millions of students participate in nationwide, including Hamden Hall’s Lower School students who have been jumping rope for the cause over the last quarter of a century.
Hamden Hall reached the 25-year milestone during the 2011-2012 school year and also hit another benchmark as well – more than $100,000 in funds raised by Lower School students since the school’s initial participation in 1987.
“I introduced the event at Hamden Hall. We started with just the fourth-graders and added grades over the years. Now we include second- through sixth-graders and we start telling the kids about it in January and typically get 100 percent participation,” said McEachern, noting that students raise money to jump for a two-and-a-half-hour span, which garners $4,000 to $5,000 for the American Heart Association.
Monies raised are used for local education, research and patient care of children and adults with heart disease or defects.
And while the cause is truly worthy, it’s ironic just how fitting the fundraiser is for Hamden Hall’s gym teacher. McEachern has been an avid jump roper since middle school when he took up the sport because he “hated running.”
“It’s a great workout and I really enjoy it,” he said. “I introduce a jump roping unit to our students in second grade.”
From Chinese jump rope to tinkling bands to skip-its, McEachern embraces the activity – so much so that he is a record holder at his high school in Philadelphia.
“I was told that no one at my school has ever broken my record for the most jumps,” he explained, adding humbly that his record is somewhere in the several hundred range.
At Hamden Hall, Mr. McEachern’s affinity for all things twined and heart-smart has garnered the school education kits and scads of jump ropes from the organization that coordinates Jump Rope for Heart. He was recognized as coordinator of the year and received an award at the November conference of the Connecticut Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation & Dance.
“I didn’t know anything about it and I was really shocked,” he said. “It’s such an honor because we’re such a small school.”
The Hamden Hall Lower School will once again participate in the annual Jump Rope for Heart fundraiser in April.