Exceeding the Challenge

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Jenny DiNello with Spring Brook first 
grader Sofie Demma

While Jenny DiNello will be retiring from her role as a physical education teacher at Spring Brook Elementary School next year, her contributions to the community are well established. DiNello has helped raise more than $645,000 for the American Heart Association through the Kids Heart Challenge during her 26 years at the Naperville school.  

Formerly known as Jump Rope for Heart, the Kids Heart Challenge focuses on whole body wellness and helping students improve their own health and better their character, while raising money to help kids facing heart-health issues.

DiNello has grown the program into a favorite annual school event. “Jenny holds such a fun event and makes it such a big deal with the kids. It’s something their community loves to do. Everyone looks forward to it,” explains Jessica Petersen, AHA’s youth market director. The daylong event is typically held on the Friday before Valentine’s Day, when children in each grade spend an hour jumping rope with their friends. 

“We have a DJ on the stage that plays tunes all day long. The kids come in and jump in teams of six or seven. They take turns doing various types of jumping like individual, partner, long jump roping, and double dutch,” explains DiNello. “Most kids have a personal connection with someone in their family who has suffered from heart disease. They often jump in honor of a family member.”

One year, the school raised more than $40,000 at the event, allowing organizers to give students something they will enjoy for years to come — a rock wall for the school obtained through the Kids Heart Challenge’s rewards program. 

“I love to teach about health and fitness so I try to make the event more about the message than the money. I want to students to understand the importance of keeping their hearts healthy in order to live a long life,” DiNello explains. 

To start a program at your school, visit www2.heart.org

Photo courtesy Jenny DiNello