The Transylvania Times -

BES Gets Pumped For Big Heart – Brevard NC


Students at Brevard Elementary collected 2,000 empty gallon containers and jumped rope to raise $2,000 for the Jump Rope for Heart fundraiser. (Courtesy photo)

How much blood pumps through a healthy heart each day?

There's no need to guess: any student at Brevard Elementary School can tell you it's 2,000 gallons, thanks to teaching assistant Patti Whitaker.

"Coach Patti" spent several months this year making that big number manageable for young minds. She had classes gather gallon milk jugs, which they numbered one by one all the way to 2,000. This all led up to April 23, when students and staff celebrated their efforts with a photo opportunity none of them are likely to forget.

"It started in February as we prepared for our Jump Rope For Heart fundraiser with the American Heart Association," said Whitaker. Each day before the event, she offered students a "heart fact" and used a gallon jug to demonstrate: "Can you believe we have 2,000 of these pumping through us every day?"

One younger student then asked: "Miss Patti, how many is 2000?" and a really big idea was born.

"Once kids had the idea," Whitaker recalled, "the jugs started rolling in, and I immediately said: 'What in the world have I done?'"

With local businesses helping to add to the total, the BES gymnasium quickly filled up with numbered jugs. The daily focus on heart health also helped the school exceed their $2,000 goal for the Jump Rope for Heart fundraiser by another $1,400. The path from those jugs to the photo, however, took an unexpected twist.

During spring pictures at BES, photographer Nikia Meadows overheard talk about the jugs and inquired concerning the school's plans for pictures of the project. When colleagues Ryan Theede and Mary Gilmore from Lifetouch got involved, and Comporium donated the use of a bucket truck with the services of Bill Reinhardt and Tom Dancy, a truly unique event took shape.

To capture the picture, plans were made to bring a bucket truck to the school to lift Meadows over 50 feet in the air and capture an "aerial" photo of the entire school gathered inside those 2,000 milk jugs. Keeping hands on knees and looking up into the bright sky was a worthy challenge for students near the end of the school day. They all behaved remarkably well during the preparation and time required for almost a hundred photos.

Many others gave time and talent to bring the photo together: Chris Cali at Lowe's helped with lumber and paint, and Mike Lowery (Coach Patti's husband) turned those raw materials into the 6-foot red letters painted "B-E-S" above the heart in the photo. Donny Brown and Christy Galloway assisted all day with logistics.

Alongside hundreds of students and staff in red T-shirts, School Resource Officer Nathan Whitmire sported a full-body red costume, seen near the top of the heart.

Ingles Markets, El Chapala, Creekside Subs, Quotations Coffee Cafe, and The Dutch Cupboard all contributed milk jugs to make this event possible. Dollar Tree donated about 80 heart-shaped balloons for staff to hold in the photo.

Some lucky students joined the "stomping party" immediately afterwards, to flatten the jugs for transport to the recycling center. Though the track and field quickly returned to normal condition, none of the BES community will likely look at that space quite the same way now.

Principal Kate Lalor credited Whitaker with creating a fond memory for more than 500 children at Brevard Elementary. Copies of the photo will be available by order through the school.

The day after, Whitaker said, "It took an awesome staff and great kids to be able to pull this off. I couldn't have done it without everyone pitching in."

Lalor added, "Yesterday was one for the books! I am very proud of my school and the people who make it such an amazing place."


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