‘Just keep your feet up’

More than 500 kids twirl and hop through the fifth annual Jump Jam.

Saabiria Abdullah’s jump rope flew as she pounded out as many jumps as she could in a minute.

Then she rushed over to her classmates from Southwest Community Campus to cheer on the next competitors.

“It’s fun,” said Saabiria, a third-grader taking part in Jump Jam for the first time. “You just get to jump and win trophies. I’ve never won a trophy before.”

More than 535 students jumped and twirled their way Saturday, April 22, through the fifth annual Jump Jam, a jump rope competition that promotes health and wellness for children in third through fifth grades.

The event, sponsored by Spectrum Health and held at DeVos Place in Grand Rapids, Michigan, drew students from Grand Rapids, Kentwood and Wyoming public schools.

Gretha Foster cheered on her 9-year-old son, Nathan, as he jumped in his first Jump Jam event.

“He’s doing awesome,” she said.

Her 11-year-old daughter took part three years ago, and Foster couldn’t wait for her son to reach third grade so he could compete.

“It’s encouraging for them,” she said. “It’s a good experience. I think they meet all sorts of people.”

She was pleased to see a big increase in the number of boys taking part.

“When my daughter did it, you could count the boys,” she said. “This year, I look around and I just see boys everywhere.”

Since Jump Jam began in 2013, it has involved more than 2,300 children.

Students compete in individual and team events. Categories include speed, basic, speed relays, criss-cross and double-Dutch jumping.

To prepare for the competition, participants train at least an hour a week for several weeks.

The program also teaches healthy lifestyle tips aimed at creating good habits at an early age. Kids learn about the value of eating five servings of fruits and vegetables a day, sleeping at least eight hours a night, limiting screen time and eliminating sugary drinks.

To mark the fifth anniversary this year, organizers added a competition for parents and coaches. While the students ate lunch, they watched more than 60 adults hop, trip, twirl and sweat through their event.

It was an exhausting but fun way to appreciate the hard work of the student athletes, said Tanya Chanter, a parent and coach for North Park Montessori.

“You tell the kids, ‘It’s only a minute,” she said, as she tried to catch her breath. “But when you actually do it, it’s a long minute.”

Her 9-year-old daughter, Sarah, said she enjoyed Jump Jam.

“You get to jump, and you know that you’re not competing that much,” said Sarah, a fourth-grader. “You’re just trying to have fun.”

Every child who competed received a medal. Individuals and teams received first, second and third place trophies.

One of those trophies―a first place in basic jump for third-graders―went to Saabiria. She wiped tears from her eyes as she stepped down from the winner’s bench and showed the trophy to her mother.

What was her secret to winning the competition?

“Never stop,” she said. “Just keep your feet up.”

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