By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Jan 11, 2011 at 3:49 PM

The American Heart Association has, for more than 30 years, been bringing heart health awareness to kids in schools across the country via its Jump Rope for Heart event, which is revving up now at some area schools, including at Greendale's Canterbury Elementary School (see photo) and at MPS' Maryland Avenue Montessori School around the corner from the OnMilwaukee.com offices.

According to the AHA's Web site, the goals of the event are to:

  • Increase students’ knowledge of how their hearts work and how to take care of them.
  • Promote the value of living a heart-healthy lifestyle.
  • Honor those people in our community affected by heart disease.
  • Raise funds to support the American Heart Association’s efforts to create healthier lives, free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke. Since 1978, Jump Rope For Heart has raised more than $810 million for research and educational programs.

"Yesterday afternoon, we had our kick-off event to get the students excited about the program," says school nurse Megan Mura, who also works at Oliver Wendell Holmes School. "(AHA's) Joe (Hoffman) brought a 32-foot jump rope and we tried to see how many students we could have jump at the same time. Seven was the most we got! All of the students seemed very excited and eager at the kick-off so I think that is a good indication of how they respond to the program."

Over the next couple weeks, says Mura, students will work with teachers during gym time on a variety of jump rope games and skills and basketball skills, which will all be of use during the actual event later in the month.

In the meantime, students will also learn about the heart and heart health and the students can -- but are not forced too -- raise funds for the AHA.

The week of Jan. 25-28 and Jan. 31, the kids will split into groups of five or six kids each and will do a circuit of stations during gym, including ones that focus on jump rope skills, basketball skills and some jumping stations, too. The AHA will donate its time to run the event -- which has been taking place for many years at Maryland Avenue -- and some snacks for a snack station (it is a grade school, after all!).

Sure thing! I'll do my best! It is my first year as "organizer" so I am not sure how the students respond to the program, however, I know that MAM has been participating in Jump Rope for Heart for many, many years so the kids must enjoy it. I actually spoke to a couple upper elementary students about it to get ideas and some feedback on what they did last year, and they all really seemed to have enjoyed it.

"I hope that the students receive some sort of positive message from the program," says Mura, "whether it be how to take care of your heart through exercise and healthy eating, how the heart works or how they can raise awareness of heart disease and stroke in their school and community.

"Yesterday at the kick-off I would say about 75 percent of the students knew someone who was affected by either heart disease or stroke, so I think the information the program presents to the students will be something beneficial that they can understand, relate to, or even teach their family about."

To learn more about Jump Rope for Heart here.

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.