And no, I am not referring to the gray, gloomy, snowy, icy, cold, damp, dark season that is winter in western Pennsylvania. Although if we are being honest, I hate that too. But since, I live here I have no right to complain about it (other than to my husband who is the reason that we live here – lol!).
I am referring to “Jump Rope For Heart” season. If you have a school age child you likely know what I am talking about. I think that the American Heart Association has wormed their way into just about every public and private school in the nation, using our nation’s students to be their ambassadors and unpaid fundraisers.
But, if you happen to live in a place where the school board has the backbone to stand up to these charities, or you just don’t have a school-age child, I’ll fill you in. Jump Rope for Heart is part of the American Heart Association’s annual fundraising campaign that encourages kids to solicit donations to the American Heart Association from their friends and family members so that they can jump rope or shoot hoops in the gym with their classmates and possibly win prizes.
According to the AHA website: “Kids can join exciting fundraising events where they learn heart healthy skills, have fun jumping rope or shooting hoops, and raising money for the American Heart Association.” The website makes it it “easy” to set up a personal website so kids can raise money online and promises that this is a “great family activity.” See http://american.heart.org/jump-hoops/for-parents/ for more information.
When you go to register your child online, the very first question is “Will you kick things off by making a donation?” And the choices are $40, $75, $100 or No, Thanks.
I clicked the No Thanks button without a seconds hesitation. The next question asks kids to set their fundraising goal, and suggest $250 as a starting point!?!
Okay – I have three children. Thankfully one is now in high school so he no longer has to jump, but $250 x 3 equals $750. The American Heart Association expects may family to raise $750 from family and friends on their behalf between January 16th and February 14th! Is it just me, or is that completely unreasonable?
Clearly that isn’t going to happen, so I just dropped a zero and put in $25 as a fundraising goal. This is honestly the first year I have ever registered any of my kids online, and I’m doing it solely in the name of research for this post. In the past, in light of my opposition to these kinds of fundraisers, I’ve always just written a ten dollar check (for each child) on the day of the event so that they can participate with their friends. In their old school, if they did not bring in a donation, they had to sit on the sidelines and watch everyone else jump. I don’t think it works that way at the public school, but I haven’t been there for an event yet. In any event, to me, sitting on the sidelines was definitely the preferred option – because in my limited experience the gym is complete chaos during these events. But, I get why my five year old wouldn’t want to sit out and watch everyone else jump. I also find it reprehensible that the school would “punish” a child who either did not or could not raise funds for a charity that the school selected. But, I furiously scribbled out my checks and sent them off to school.
I know that $10 doesn’t sound like much, but with three kids that’s $30. More kids equals more dollars. And for some families there simply isn’t an extra $3o (or more) in the budget for this type of nonsense. While we could “afford it” – that’s really not the point.
The next page takes you to creating the student’s profile. After filling in name, grade and teacher I have to put in an email address. Although my 8 year old does have an email, I didn’t think it wise to have these kinds of emails going to him, so I reluctantly entered my email address.
Great! Now I can have more solicitation emails cluttering my inbox. Sigh.
Moving down the page I get to create a user name and password – more electronic clutter to keep track of. It seems that every fundraiser – whether it’s for school, a sports team, band,dance, etc… all have online forums now – and while I get this makes it easier for people to order and/or donate, it is a lot for a parent to manage. And let’s be honest, it is definitely a parent managing this stuff.
The next box asks for a t-shirt size. But, oh, I can leave that one blank because student’s aren’t eligible for a t-shirt until the raise $50. Not going to happen people.
Once the account is created is when the real work begins. Now I, oops I mean he, needs to customize his personal webpage and send donation requests to family and friends. Hmmm – I wonder how many email addresses he has in his contact list? Now that he’s in third grade, there are probably a few. But I’m curious how many kindergartners regularly communicate with loved ones this way, even in 2018? My guess is not too many. So, while the kids are recruited to raise the funds, it is actually the parents being strong armed into raising money for a charity they may or may not choose to support. I guess I was right the first time, it’s time for me to get to work raising funds for the American Heart Association.
There are pre-drafted emails that I can select and edit for my donation requests (a series of 4 of them if I counted correctly). The first one reads like this:
I’m doing something really fun at my school: I’ve signed up for the American Heart Association’s Jump Rope For Heart/Hoops For Heart to learn how the heart works and how exercise can be fun – while asking friends and family for donations to save lives.
That’s why I need you! I want to help kids born with special hearts and keep kids like me active. It’s super easy and safe to make a donation to my fundraising page; just click on the link below!
Make a donation to my page, and together we can be Heart Heroes!
***Know what’s better than one donation? TWO! Ask your employer if you have an Employee Matching Gift program, or search for your company at http://matchinggifts.com/aha. If your employer has a Matching Gift program, complete your employer’s form and send it to me.
Better put a reminder in my phone so that I remember to send out all 4 emails.
It’s not that I am opposed to the AHA. I know they do great work. I have friends whose children were born with heart defects and who have benefited greatly from their support. I have friends who suffered heart attacks at young ages and battle heart disease today. I understand why raising funds is important. The American Heart Association has an excellent rating from Charity Navigator for both financial responsibility and accountability and transparency. It helps lots of people and its work is both necessary and admirable.
But, I am opposed to being told where and how to spend my charitable dollars. I am opposed to being coerced to donate to a cause I would not have otherwise chosen to support. I am opposed to having certain causes be singled out as more important that others.
And I am vehemently opposed to having elementary school-aged, children, some as young as 5 and 6, raise funds for an organization most of them have never heard of and couldn’t possibly understand.
I truly don’t think that the public school is the proper forum for this kind of fundraising.
I believe that schools can and should educate children on healthy living which is one of the fundamental missions of the Jump Rope for Heart program. Schools can and should educate children on nonprofits and how charities work to help people live better lives – in a multitude of different ways. Schools can and should teach and encourage compassion, empathy and philanthropy.
But the truth is, there are a number of noble causes out there. Many of which receive far less in charitable donations than the American Heart Association, simply because they lack national exposure (and a public school run fundraising campaign). I think that kids should be made aware of ALL the charities that exist today and learn that different people have different problems, needs, experiences and inclinations. (Okay – we all know I don’t literally mean “ALL” – that would be impossible, but I think we can all agree that children need to learn about more than just the American Heart Association).
My family is committed to charitable giving and to raising money for causes we support. We give locally and nationally to a number of causes that are near and dear to our hearts. Our children see us participate in fundraising campaigns in a number of different ways and they participate as well.
But I really resent having the school tell me and my children which charities deserve our time, energy and dollars.
Does your school participate in Jump Rope For Heart? Do you feel compelled to support this fundraiser? How do you teach your kiddos about charitable giving?
Until next time . . .