Hillcrest Elementary students who collected the most donations from the community were rewarded with the chance to dump slime on participating teachers on April 1.

AMERICAN FALLS — Hillcrest Elementary School students recently raised more than $7,700 for the American Heart Association with their Kids Heart Challenge.

The students solicited pledges from the community for doing physical activities. The annual fundraiser is intended to teach children the importance of staying active and healthy while also raising funds for a good cause.

This year, the students beat their goal by $2,786, said physical education teacher Kristin Pollard, and more than doubled last year’s goal of $3,000.

“I like the fact that the kids get to help other people,” said Pollard, who has helped spearhead the fundraiser at the school for the past 26 years. “They get to do something that isn’t just for them. It helps other people and other kids, because they’re raising money to help find new medications and new procedures to help people who have heart problems and strokes. So that’s one of the big things I tell the kids every year is that we’re doing this to help other people for the greater good.”

The event, which used to be called Jump Rope for Heart and focused mainly on jump-roping, was expanded a few years back by the American Heart Association and now includes other activities such as obstacle courses, beams, and a climbing rope. This opens up activities that may be easier for younger students to accomplish, Pollard said.

“Looking at the bigger picture, we’ve done it over the years and raised about $128,000 for the American Heart Association,” explained Principal Tina Fehringer. “All the faculty got behind it and the kids went to work. But it wouldn’t have happened without (Pollard). She’s played a huge role in it.”

The fundraising and activities began in January and extended into mid-February, but students had to wait until April 1 when the weather cleared up to get one of their anticipated rewards for reaching their goal.

The top 10 students who earned the most donations got the opportunity to throw slime at several teachers last week, which Pollard said was a huge incentive for the kids.

“I told (the students) that if they met the goal, I would get slimed and then a bunch of other teachers heard about it and said they would get slimed too, so it really motivated the kids,” said Pollard. “So they worked really hard and beat the goal. I was super proud of them.”

Pollard explained that the students’ excitement for fun events like this one and receiving rewards for all their hard work was one of her favorite things about the challenge.

“I just love to see their excitement because if they do a good job, the American Heart Association has little prizes that come with the challenge and (the students) get super excited to see what they can get for the money they raised,” she said.

Seeing the community come together during the event is also one of her favorite parts of the Kids Heart Challenge.

“I’m just always appreciative that the community is so supportive of the Kids Heart Challenge and so is the faculty of Hillcrest,” Pollard continued. “They are always so supportive of the program over the 26 years I’ve been doing it.”