Decades Of Lifesaving Lessons, One Jump At A Time

Early in her career as a PE teacher, Kris Brockhagen sought something that would thrill her students as much as her favorite activities in college had thrilled her.

Considering she’d been a cheerleader and circus performer, that was quite a challenge.

The school that hired Kris was an early adopter of a program called Jump Rope For Heart. The name alone drew her in. The details got her adrenaline flowing.

Beyond the physical activity, there was a classroom component to teach kids about their bodies. Students also were encouraged to seek donations for the American Heart Association, introducing them to the importance of helping others.

So Kris – fresh off being part of human pyramids and holding the circus role of “teeter-totter flyer” – did what came naturally.

She threw herself into it.

In September 1978, a high school PE teacher in Milwaukee was asked to come up with something that was new, easy to do and could raise money for a good cause. Her “Jump-Rope-A-Thon” went so well that the next year, my organization – the American Heart Association – adopted it nationwide.

Jump Rope For Heart has generated more than $1 billion to fund research and education about heart disease. The event is held at more than 28,000 schools each year, with children who once skipped rope now watching their kids take part.

The program came to Texas right about the time Chuck and Kris Brockhagen left behind cheerleading and circus performing at Illinois State University for the warmer climate of Dallas. Episcopal School of Dallas got involved in Jump Rope For Heart in 1980 and happened to hire Kris the following year.