Jumping for joy

Nov. 22, 2013 @ 05:00 AM

Screaming, pointing, hugging their neighbors and leaping out of their seats, a group of Sanford grade school children met a star Thursday morning.

It wasn’t Justin Bieber, Katy Perry or Lady Gaga. It was someone who has been around much longer, and who wore far more makeup than any pop star even would have dared; Ronald McDonald paid them a visit.

The entire first grade at J.R. Ingram Elementary School got to meet the clown mascot of one of the world’s largest restaurant chains during an assembly in which he gave them hugs and high-fives and then performed a magic show.

It was fitting that the gathering was so energetic, since the children won it by out-performing schools all across the central and eastern parts of North Carolina in a jump rope competition sponsored by McDonald’s in an effort to promote exercise. In addition to the celebrity appearance of Ronald himself, the school also won $1,000 to spend on recreational items.

Asked whether she could find a good use for the money, Principal Lisa Duffey said, “Oh my gosh, yes!” 

“We have a lot of gym equipment and outdoors stuff [for the playground] that we need,” she said. “And with budget cuts, things like this are awesome.”

The school’s students probably weren’t thinking about budget cuts when they picked up jump ropes every day throughout October, but they still dominated the competition. Ingram was in the medium-sized category of schools for the contest, but it wouldn’t have mattered: The small school category winner, Aberdeen Primary School in Moore County, had students jump for a combined 11,425 minutes. The large school winner, White Oak Elementary School in Cape Carteret, had students jump for 16,200 minutes.

But the students at J.R. Ingram showed them all how it’s really done, jumping for a total of 67,500 minutes throughout the month of October. That’s 1,125 hours, or more than an hour and a half of jumping per student for the 705 students at the school. All students participated, but the first grade in particular logged the most minutes. So they got to hang out with Ronald McDonald.

The memories of the day will probably be fond for many, but the school’s physical education teacher, Andrew Ard, said he hopes a love of exercise sticks with them as well. And as far as finding a good activity, he said, McDonald’s could not have picked better.

“Jumping rope’s about the best thing you can do for cardio,” Ard said. “Jumping rope for five minutes is equivalent of running a mile.”

Jump rope they did. Ard said he had every class warm up before gym by jumping rope and then cool down afterward by jumping some more. Many also jumped during recess, which is where the first graders edged out the rest of the school.

And they’re still not done. After Thursday’s assembly, while waiting for other classes to file out of the gym, one class picked up some jump ropes and got to work again — only this time with Ronald himself leading the way.

Christine Laney, a McDonald’s marketing supervisor, said in a press release that they’re glad so many kids around the state took the competition to heart.

“It is imperative that our young people learn early on how important it is to live a healthy, active lifestyle, and it’s great that they were able to learn about it in such a fun, competitive way.”