CUMBERLAND, R.I. (WJAR) — When students at the Mercymount Country Day school in Cumberland learned that a new jump rope club was starting, they jumped on board.
“Any interest that children have in any type of club, or activity, when we can find someone to support it we’re whole heartedly in support of it," said Rayleen Giannotti, principal of the school. "We have a Pokémon club, we have a Japanese club, all different kinds of clubs the students are interested in. This is one of the popular ones for sure."
Many months ago, at a sports committee meeting, Colleen Malachowski, a mom of a kindergartener made a pitch.
She asked the committee if they would be on board with her starting a jump rope club.
“She said the only thing we would need is jump ropes and jumpers," said Giannotti. “At that time, we didn’t have any idea of what the interest would be, and we were very surprised to find quite a few of our students participating.'
“Jump roping has been a huge part of my life since kindergarten," said Malachowski. "My mother, 'Grandma Pat', actually was my jump rope teacher in kindergarten, and we wanted to bring the club here so other kids could experience it."
With approval from the school, Colleen, alongside her mom, Pat Malachowski, a former special education teacher, started the school's first-ever jump rope club.
The idea behind it was not only to offer a fun way to exercise and learn the sport of jumping rope, but to support the American Heart Association.
The initiative has personal ties to their family.
“You never know when the research at the American Heart Association is going to benefit someone you love and that was our family 32 years ago," said Pat. "My oldest daughter was diagnosed with Wolff Parkinson White Syndrome. This organization is near and dear to my heart as far as giving back to the community, and paying it forward, so I’ve tried to reach my kids to pay it forward."
That is what the Malachowski's are doing.
Every Thursday since November, they teach a group of more than 20 kids the ins and outs of jumping rope
“It actually started with a lot of people getting interested in jumping rope during Covid because they would do it outside when they had to be socially isolated," said Colleen. "It was a good sport and exercise they could do individually."
For the Malachowski's, Thursday's could also be considered family bonding. There are three generations in the gym. Pat, her daughter Colleen, and her daughter, Mae Belle.
“I'm glad she loved it so much she wanted to do it in her future once her oldest child got to kindergarten," said Pat. "It's great she’s getting to do this and that Mercymount is making it possible."
Colleen said over the last five months the after-school club has been a place members, grade K-3, are eager to attend.
“These kids have progressed so much over the weeks," she said. “They are now doing double dutch, they’re doing the eggbeater which is ropes cris cross and they came in here not even knowing how to do a single rope skill in the beginning."
“The best thing is watching them cheer each other on," she added. “They all love, and support each other, cheer each other on, and it’s great energy."
Not only were the students eager to learn more about jumping rope but they were also interested in the American Heart Association.
According to Giannotti, during morning announcements, some of the kids from the club would get on the microphone to announce heart facts so other students could learn about the importance of a healthy lifestyle and the organization that helps so many families.
“They do teamwork with each other, or they can be individual. They have fun. I mean, you see the smiles, you hear the laughter, the giggles, which I absolutely love, even when they make a mistake it’s ok to make a mistake and you just get back in and jump over again," said Giannotti. "I think it teaches some phenomenal life lessons as a result."
Another lesson learned was the art of fundraising.
According to the American Heart Association, 'Jump Rope for Heart' was a fundraising and event program that for years was an annual event for elementary and middle schools around the world, with thousands of schools and millions of kids participating. The program raised more than $1.2 billion in the USA from 1978 to 2017.
Now, it has evolved into the 'Kids Heart Challenge' which still includes jump rope as a component.
The club took matters into their own hands to raise funds. They were able to donate $2,500 through their efforts.
“There were incentives to do it, but we actually declined all of those incentives because it is a part of Mercymount's mission to engage in community service without that reward," said Colleen. “It’s something they really did from their hearts and were excited to do without incentives."
“I’m really proud of the Mercymount kids. They embraced the idea, and giving back to the community is great," said Pat.
The Mercymount Mustangs jump rope club will come to an end this week with a final performance for member's families.
“I’m very impressed with what they’ve been able to accomplish, and I look forward to seeing what they’re going to be able to accomplish next year," said Giannotti.
“These types of things happen through the support not only of our faculty and staff but our parents. They make them happen. They’re excited about it, love being with the children, and our parents allow their children to participate and are quite present to help with the management of it. They're the ones swinging the ropes to all the things we’re able to do and we appreciate that."