As with every other year, Renee Ades of the American Heart Association stood before the Waterloo School Board Monday night to recognize students and staff for their recent fundraising efforts.
She touted the accomplishments of Gardner, Rogers, Zahnow and Waterloo Junior High School. She recognized teachers Jacob Flick, Karla Bivins, Josh Hogan, Carla Schwehr and Dave Ackerman for their successes in this year’s campaign.
And she delighted in being able to share the total raised from the schools’ Jump Rope for Heart and Hoops for Heart programs.
But this year, she also added a surprise twist to the celebration. Ades called up several students who raised $1,000 or more to speak to the board about their participation
“I like to support the American Heart Association so I can help people whenever they have a sick heart,” said Zahnow kindergartener Jack Adams, who raised $1,000.
Rogers second grader Sam Breitwiser raised $1,125 for the AHA.
“I participated in Jump Rope for Heart to give people money when they have sick hearts so they can have healthy hearts,” Sam told the board.
Each student gave a similar one-sentence statement and moseyed back to their seats. But one kid gave a particularly moving speech, having been affected by the AHA’s work.
“I’ve participated in (Jump Rope for Heart), eventually coming to realize that I’ve benefitted from the life-saving research that they fund,” noted Corwin Pherson, a Gardner Elementary fourth grader who raised $1,200.
Corwin was born with a heart defect known as Tetralogy of Fallot with Pulmonary Atresia. He has two holes in his heart, one between the top two chambers and one between the bottom two chambers.
The connection between the right side of his heart and his pulmonary arteries also didn’t form properly. At only 10 years old, he has gone through 18 surgeries, 16 of which were for repairing his heart, and expects to have more as he gets older. Corwin’s mom, Michelle, said life expectancy is difficult to measure because of “physiological variations” with children who have his disease.
“If I had been born just 20 or 30 years earlier, there wouldn’t have been much more hope for fixing my heart … Some kids like me have great success in treatment but others are not so lucky,” he said. “Fortunately I am one of those lucky ones.”
Corwin gave a nod to the progress that has come from researching treatments for heart conditions, but he also emphasized the importance of staying involved in these kinds of fundraisers.
“Researchers have already done a lot to help kids born with hearts that don’t work right. But there’s still more that can be done to help kids like me lead on a healthy life,” he said, adding the AHA is a major source of funding for research into treating heart conditions.
Following the meeting, Michelle said she struggled not to cry during his speech.
“Hearing him give his speech gave me an enormous sense of pride in him for his courage,” she expressed. “I had to fight back tears because as someone who has witnessed every single thing he has gone through, I have a true understanding of just how miraculous it is for him to just be able to stand up there and give that speech.”
Also during the recognition, Ades announced that Zahnow Elementary raised more money for the school year’s Jump Rope for Heart than any other southern Illinois school at $30,543.64.
“I’m just so proud of each child that participated no matter how much money they raised,” she added.
Waterloo school superintendent Brian Charron lauded physical education teachers Flick, Bivins, Hogan and Schwehr for the work they do with the fundraiser and as teachers.
“It is such an important job that P.E. teachers do,” he said. “And sometimes they don’t get enough credit for it. And so I want to give you guys that recognition and express how much I appreciate what you guys do.”
Also during the meeting, Waterloo Basketball Association president Nick DeVilder shared the successes of the association’s second season. He said a total of 132 kids participated in the WBA for the year.
“We want this program to continue to grow, so we’re real excited about it,” he said.
DeVilder also had $500 in leftover funds, which he gave to the district to replace the scoreboard consoles at Gardner and WJHS. Waterloo athletic director Mitch North said he would work with DeVilder on that.