Second grader becomes heart hero and develops top fundraiser
Danielle Hnath loves dreaming up creative ways to challenge her students. The physical education teacher at P.S. 193Q Alfred J. Kennedy School in Whitestone, she is dedicated to helping her more than 500 students adopt a healthy lifestyle that includes getting plenty of exercise, learning about nutrition and helping others.
Earlier this year, Ms. Hnath teamed up with the American Heart Association’s Kids Heart Challenge, a new program designed to teach students about their heart while helping others and raising money. She challenged her students to raise $8,000 to help fund research for kids with special hearts.
As an incentive to motivate the students, she promised to dye her hair blue if they met the fundraising goal. After months of following the Kids Heart Challenge curriculum and spreading awareness, her students eventually exceeded the original goal. In total, the school raised more than $10,000.
On February 4th Ms. Hnath showed up to school with blue hair.
“I knew I had to do something big to make the students excited,” Ms. Hnath said. “I wanted to make it fun for them, something to help motivate them.”
To help the kids connect with the mission, Ms. Hnath also shared the story of a Virginia toddler named Finn Blumenthal, who underwent multiple open-heart surgeries before age two. Learning of Finn’s story motivated second grader Addison Boshnack-Roth, 8, to take the challenge. Soon she became the school’s top fundraiser.
“Ms. Hnath promising to dye her hair blue sounded like fun,” Addison said. “But when I saw pictures of Finn Blumenthal, our heart hero, and read his story, I wanted to raise more to help him. When I saw how much money I raised in just one day, I pushed myself to raise even more money.”
For being the school’s top fundraiser, Finn and his mom sent Addison a video message thanking her for being a heart hero.
“I didn’t understand that though,” Addison recalls. “My parents explained that I had become a heart hero too because I was part of helping all of those hearts.”
The recognition did not stop there. On March 25, Addison received a trophy from her school’s Parent Teacher Association for “having a big heart.”
“I was surprised. I didn’t expect a trophy,” Addison says. “I was excited to hear I raised the most money, because I really wanted to do a good job. I was also excited to get a jump rope, which I won for raising money and earning hearts. Getting a trophy felt really good because everybody saw, and maybe that will get the kids excited to raise even more money next year!”
Addison and Ms. Hnath plan on raising even more money to fund research next year. In the meantime, Ms. Hnath will think of more fun and heartfelt ways to motivate her students.
“I’m dreaming up the next challenge for 2020,” Ms. Hnath said. “The most important lesson for my students is that it’s important to give back and to avoid the unhealthy choices in life. What they do can affect their life and body.”
For information about launching the Kids Heart Challenge in your school contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Diego is the Communications Director for the American Heart Association in New York City. He loves sharing powerful stories that inspire people to take control of their health.