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Spout Springs school celebrates raising more than $25K for American Heart Association
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Principal Arlene Thomas stands by as Tom Adam announces that she was named Administrator of the Year for the nation by the American Heart Association. - photo by Erin O. Smith

As Spout Springs School of Enrichment celebrated its biggest Jump Rope for Heart fundraising effort to date and a national award for its principal, Bob Lofton watched the festivities from a wall in the gym — without moving.

He couldn’t move. He was duct-taped to the wall about 10 feet above the gym floor.

More than 100 of the 800 Spout Springs students helped Tom Adam, a physical education teacher, and Assistant Principal Jared Belew apply the 10 rolls of duct tape that mounted Lofton, a paraprofessional who also teaches physical education at the school, to the wall.

“It was scary at first, but once I figured out that the tape was going to hold, it was fine,” Lofton said after the assembly. “The tape wasn’t going anywhere, but I could feel myself slipping very, very slowly.”

Lofton had given the incentive to the students, allowing each student who raised $100 or more during the February event to apply some of the duct tape.

“I think the kids enjoyed it,” Lofton said after the event. “I wish we had more time for the kids to help, but there was just so many of them, they could only put one or two strips. They love doing stuff like that.”

The tactic worked as Spout Springs broke the Hall County record for money raised in the event for the third consecutive year, raising a total of $25,711.95 for the American Heart Association. That was good enough for No. 9 among the more than 1,000 schools in the state participating in the event this year, according to Scott Cooper, youth market director for the Northeast Georgia region of the American Heart Association. Spout Springs was No. 23 in total funds raised in Georgia a year ago, raising more than $19,000.

Officials also announced at the assembly that Spout Springs Principal Arlene Thomas was selected as the American Heart Association’s Administrator of the Year. She was chosen out of 40,000 administrators at schools across the nation. Cooper said the award recognizes Thomas for leadership in promoting various efforts at the school that encourage heart health. The school has even secured grant funds to pay for equipment in a classroom for faculty and staff to use for personal workouts. Spout Springs is also a two-year gold-level school in the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Healthy Schools Program.

“She is extremely supportive, encourages health and wellness among students and faculty and staff,” Cooper said of Thomas. “If there’s anybody more deserving for the award, I don’t know who it is.”

While saying she was “humbled” and “honored” to be selected for the national award, Thomas added she did not win it by herself.

“The award represents the concerted efforts of the Hall County School District,” she said. “Our school superintendent and Board of Education understands the importance of educating the whole child, which encompasses their academic achievement and their health and wellness.

“At the school level, our staff and students embrace the importance of wellness and the selfless act of service,” she added. “We have made great strides to instill the importance of a healthy lifestyle and have generated service learning opportunities for our students in which to participate.”

For Thomas, Lofton and the other faculty, staff and students at Spout Springs, the issue of heart health is a personal one. Several students have faced heart conditions, and one has had open-heart surgeries. Many faculty and staff have had family members affected by heart issues.

“That really brings it home for us,” said Lofton, whose father was diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat at age 40.

Adam said participation is a key to the school’s emphasis with Jump Rope for Heart.

“Every kid participates in it,” Adam said. “Our principal backs us 100 percent.”

With this year’s event over, Lofton is already thinking ahead and thinking about an incentive he could give in 2018. Before Tuesday’s event, he had agreed to have a blond mohawk and be “slimed” at previous Jump Rope for Heart assemblies.

“It’s going to be hard to top; we’re going to have to come up with something really good,” he said. “We’ve got to come up with something good. I’m looking for ideas.”

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