Freedom Crest Students Jump for Joy to Promote Heart Health

Easton Niles took a break from jumping rope to answer a reporter's question: Why do you want ...


Easton Niles took a break from jumping rope to answer a reporter's question:

Why do you want to jump rope for so long out here with all your classmates?

"Because it's something that can save lives," he said.

Easton, a third grader at Freedom Crest Elementary School in Menifee, had a special reason for joining hundreds of students at the school Thursday morning in a "Jump Rope for Heart" event. His sister, 8-month-old Emma, was born with a closed pulmonary valve and underwent surgery at age 3 weeks.

"An event like this is really important," said Easton's mother, Shalimar Niles. "Emma was my third child and before her, I had no idea how many children are affected by this. Doing this raises awareness among the children. It encourages the kids to take care of themselves."

For the last month, students at Freedom Crest Elementary and many other schools in the area have been instructed in the value of exercise and nutrition in maintaining a healthy heart. On Thursday, they learned that the heart is more than just a symbol for Valentine's Day.

They learned how to take care of their heart in a fun and healthy way. In addition, they are supporting the efforts of the American Heart Association by soliciting donations from friends and family, both online and in person.

To date, Easton has raised $1,374 for heart research through online fundraising and by working two lemonade stands. And his family is not the only one at Freedom Crest who has been personally affected by heart disease.

Angie Domiccio is a special education teacher at Freedom Crest. Her youngest child, Mia, is a kindergartner there. She was born with heart defects, including the absence of a pulmonary artery and an aorta that was in the wrong spot. She has had two open heart surgeries and faces even more. Yet she attends school, plays T-Ball and jumps on a trampoline.

"She knows she has a special heart," Angie said. "I know I can't push her too hard; I don't want her to fall. But I want her to get the exercise she needs."

Angie and her husband Tim know that advanced medical treatment, such as that which is supported by the AHA, saved Mia's life.

"Heart disease affects everyone -- the siblings, the parents and other family members," Angie said. "You don't realize it until you've been through it. All these kids out here today are doing this to stay healthy and help these special kids."

As of this week, Freedom Crest leads all schools in Riverside and San Bernardino counties in donations through the program with more than $5,000 raised. It's no wonder there were smiles all around Thursday as students in red T-shirts jumped rope, hula-hooped and laughed their way to health.


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