McClellan Elementary students take to the court for heart health

| Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013, 9:01 p.m.

A competitive game of hoops inside the McClellan Elementary School gymnasium taught students the importance of staying fit while raising money for a good cause.

The more than 300 students at the school last week played a game of basketball or spent a half-hour jumping rope to raise money for the American Heart Association, through the “Jump for Heart” and “Hoops for Heart” programs. The students also learned that exercise will help them to stay healthy.

Banners line the gymnasium walls, showing the school's participation in the programs for the last 17 years, physical education teacher Marie Bartoletti told the students. In those years, the school has raised more than $130,000 for the American Heart Association, Bartoletti said. McClellan students raised more than $5,500 this year.

“That's a lot of money,” Bartoletti told the students, who applauded the schools efforts. With that money, “they figure out how to help people with heart problems.”

The gymnasium walls last week also were dotted with hundreds of cutout paper hearts. Scribbled inside were the names of family members, neighbors and acquaintances who suffered heart attacks or died from cancer. Each student had a personal reason they were jumping rope or playing hoops.

“In honor of my Pappy, because he had a heart attack,” the pencil markings inside one heart stated.

“I'm a heart hero because of my family,” another child scribbled inside the lines.

“As you jump for the next half-hour, I want you to think about those people,” Bartoletti told the students.

The youngsters said it was important for them to collect donations from family and friends who have heart problems.

“If we don't help them, they could die,” said Trystan Alava, 10, a fourth-grader.

For their donations, some students received bookmarks, T-shirts and even free tickets to a Pittsburgh Pirates game.

The class that collects the most money gets a pizza party and the student that raises the most money gets a stuffed bear.

Bartoletti's passion for the programs are what makes them such a success every year, Principal Justin Liberatore said.

“And it's one that the kids love — they're jumping rope. They're playing hoops,” he said. “It's one that we'll always do.”

Stephanie Hacke is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5818 or

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