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Exceeding goal calls for a kiss

There was no way First Flight Elementary School Principal Drew Sawyer was getting out of it.

Near the end of the March 30 school day, as Sawyer entered the already full gymnasium, he was greeted by a crowd of students, teachers and several parents, all clapping and chanting “Kiss the pig, kiss the pig, kiss the pig!”

FIRST FLIGHT ELEMENTARY SCHOOL Principal Drew Sawyer kisses a live pig being held by its owner Joe Brickhouse at a March 30 school assembly for the school having raised $17,542.00 in a recent American Heart Association Jump Rope For Heart campaign. (FFES photo)

The afternoon assembly was not only a send-off for Spring Break, but also a ceremonial announcement that the school had exceeded its Jump Rope For Heart goal of $15,000. The reward for exceeding the goal would be for Sawyer and Assistant Principal Dr. Jodie Mitchum to each kiss a pig.

Friday was pay day.

After a couple of feigned attempts to exit the gym, Sawyer joined Mitchum and physical education teacher Christy Roberts on the gym’s stage.

“We didn’t believe you could do it,” said Sawyer once he had quieted the crowd. “When you started Jump Rope For Heart, Dr. Mitchum and I said if we reached our goal we would kiss a pig. You did $14,000 in the past so we thought $15,000 was no problem.”

Standing in front of the entire student body seated on the gym floor, Sawyer announced that not only did they reach their goal, but by the end of school on Friday they had exceeded it by raising $17,542.00.

“Are you ready for the pig?” Roberts asked.

Prompted by a room full of cheering children, the curtain opened a small bit and Cyndi Slagle stepped out draped in a large fur-like coat and wearing a pig mask on her head complete with snout and ears. In unison, Sawyer and Mitchum planted exaggerated kisses on Slagle’s cheeks, but the crowd was not satisfied.

“Real pig,” was the loud response from the entire assembly.

Almost immediately, there was a loud squeal from behind the curtain and within a moment or two later Joe Brickhouse emerged carrying a squealing 30-pound potbellied pig he had brought in from his family farm near Plymouth.

Paying their dues, Mitchum and Sawyer each took turns kissing the real pig.

“This was only possible from the efforts of Christy Roberts,” said Sawyer as students and teachers departed. “Her dedication and commitment is what makes this the success that it is.”

This was not the first American Heart Association campaign for Roberts. After graduating from West Virginia University with a master’s degree in Motor Development, Roberts began holding Jump Rope For Heart fund raisers in 1987 at Griggs Elementary School in Currituck County. She came to First Flight in 2000. She said her previous highest total was $14,600 a couple of years ago.

In comparison, other Dare County elementary schools brought in less, although efforts were still impressive. Totals were not available from Kitty Hawk or Nags Head, but Cape Hatteras students raised $3,745.00 and the Manteo Elementary total was $8,308.44.

“Christy always does an amazing job,” said Hope Guiley at Manteo Elementary.

One reason behind the drive for Roberts might be that in 2007 she developed a personal tie to heart health when a close friend died of a massive heart attack at age 47.

Roberts still gets a little misty-eyed when talking about her best friend from college, but is quick to point out that it’s her students that do all the work.

Almost as driven, two First Flight fifth graders and a kindergartner accounted for donations totaling almost $3,000. According to Roberts, Caroline Worthy raised $1,460, Felicity Lipchak had $1,440 and Camryn Hedgepeth raised $585.

“This community is awesome,” she said. “We had 248 jumpers today. We did short rope and we did long rope for an hour in teams of four.”

“The kids really love doing it,” added one student’s mother standing nearby.

Jump Rope For Heart is a national education and fund-raising events sponsored by the American Heart Association and the Society of Health and Physical Educators (SHAPE) designed to help elementary and middle school students learn how to develop heart-healthy habits while being physically active in addition to jump rope skills they can use the rest of their lives.

The event is conducted in schools by physical education instructors, coaches or teachers and scheduled when most convenient be it during physical education classes, lunch or before or after school.

The American Heart Association founded by six cardiologists in 1924, includes more than 22.5 million volunteers and supporters and is the nation’s oldest and largest voluntary organization dedicated to fighting heart disease and stroke.

“What a fun day with so much love,” said Roberts. “I am so proud of our students, staff and the community for this unbelievable amount of money to fight heart disease and save lives.”