Fundraiser to honor student, teacher
By Angie Landsverk
Students at Waupaca Learning Center will honor a classmate and remember a teacher when they participate in this year’s Jump Rope for Heart and Hoops for Heart.
The fundraiser for the American Heart Association will take place on Thursday and Friday, March 2 and 3, at the school.
Students will honor Carter Fermanich, who is a fourth grader at the school, and the late Mary Jensen, who was a speech pathologist at Waupaca Learning Center (WLC) for 23 years.
Jensen passed away on July 25, 2015 from an aortic dissection of her heart.
“We knew since last year we were going to do it (the fundraiser) in her honor this year,” said Lisa Ash, who teaches physical education at WLC.
An aortic dissection may be caused by high cholesterol or high blood pressure.
It may also be hereditary.
Since Jensen had regular check-ups and knew she did not have high cholesterol or high blood pressure, the assumption is genetics caused her aortic dissection.
Ash said Jensen grew up in Amherst and then lived there with her husband, Gregg, and their three children.
Gregg is a physical education teacher in that school district.
“She was very special in our building – just a very special person,” Ash said. “Her memory should be honored. It’s a perfect way to honor her.”
The event will take place in the gym, where at the end of the 2015-16 school year, the Jensen Family and the school’s Parent/Teacher Group made two rock walls (one on either side of the gym) possible for the school’s students.
The Jensen Family donated memorial money, and the Parent/Teacher Group donated funds as well, Ash said.
“Mary loved working at the Waupaca Learning Center, and we like hearing about the ways in which she made a difference at the school. We’re glad that she’s being remembered through the rock walls and now Jump Rope for Heart and Hoops for Heart activities,” Gregg said.
He said, “Anyone who’s lost someone they love knows there are good days and there are bad days. But hearing from the Waupaca Learning Center and seeing how they cared about Mary just as much as she cared about all of them, it gives us more better days. We hope that Mary’s story will continue to teach the WLC kids about not only their heart health, but staying healthy in general.”
This will be the second consecutive year the students honor Fermanich when they jump rope and shoot basketballs.
Fermanich was three days old when he had his first heart surgery to correct the coarctation of his aorta.
When he was 10 months old, he had his second heart surgery.
That one was to remove the fibrous tissue growing over his mitral valve.
He and his family knew a third heart surgery would eventually be needed.
On Jan. 11, Fermanich had that surgery to open his aortic valve by removing fibrous tissue that had been growing over it.
He returned to school on Feb. 1 and continues to recover from his surgery.
When asked how he is feeling, Fermanich said, “Good.”
Fermanich has restrictions, including no physical education, recess or the lifting of more than five pounds for eight weeks.
He is in Louise Dayton’s class this school year, and she said his friends are being very helpful.
Fermanich’s brother also carries his backpack for him, she said.
“I don’t really like missing recess and phy ed,” Fermanich said.
That means while he was able to participate in Jump Rope For Heart and Hoops for Heart last year, he will be watching his peers do so this year.
WLC students will participate in the event next week, during their physical education time periods.
They will rotate from one station to another, with each station involving basketball or jump roping.
Leading up to next week’s event, the focus is educating the students about heart health, Ash said.
“The prevention part and education is so important. The community service is a benefit,” she said.
With heart disease the leading cause of death in the United States for both men and women, Ash said they are teaching students what they can do to keep their hearts healthy.
Those five things are exercising, eating a healthy diet, drinking water and cutting back on sugary beverages, lowering their salt intake and living tobacco free, she said.
In early February, WLC kicked off a month of heart activities with a Go Red for Women Day.
She said the educational aspect of this American Heart Association program is important.
“Fitness and eating healthy have to be a habit, a routine,” Ash said. “You have to commit to being fit and healthy. It’s a daily process. It’s hard work.”
Community members who want to be part of the school’s fundraising effort this year may drop off donations, written to the American Heart Association, at Waupaca Learning Center or mail them to the school at 1515 Shoemaker Road, Waupaca, WI 54981.
Donations are due on March 3.
Last year, the school raised $15,768.
Ash said people may support the fundraising efforts of a student they know or honor Jensen.
“Hopefully, by starting when they are young, we are teaching them these concepts, how the heart works, how its a muscle,” Ash said.