As a reward for raising more than $15,000 for the American Heart Association and Jump Rope for Heart, students at Valley Vista Elementary got the chance to dunk not only their Principal Jeff Hill in a dunk tank, but also numerous building staff including Head Custodian Bob Rodriguez and Music Teacher Sarah Burrows.
Students at the Wallings Road school were the top fundraisers in northeast Ohio, raising just under $15,600 for the annual national fundraiser that aims to develop heart-healthy habits in children and raise needed funds for the American Heart Association and its youngest patients with “special hearts” in need of surgical help.
“I was thinking and reflecting on all the special fundraising efforts we do here and throughout the district and thinking what we can do that would be more rewarding than maybe extra time in recess or an ice cream social,” said Principal Jeff Hill.
The dunk tank proved successful as the top fundraising students got the first throws at Hill. It didn’t take long for him to be dunked. Six-year-old Sara Palkar, the top student raising $1,045, dunked Hill within moments of taking shots throwing at the red triangle-shaped target. Following Palkar, the top students also took throws, with many of them succeeding. At times, Physical Education Teacher Nathan Costello, who facilitated the school’s Jump Rope for Heart fundraising campaign, provided some extra “help” in dunking staff members.
“It felt good raising money and it was funny seeing Mr. Hill go in the tank,” Palkar said following her successful throws at the dunk tank.
To kick off the event June 5, Valley Vista students were called outdoors for a special surprise assembly and Hill greeted them from the roof of the school, congratulating their fundraising efforts and commitment to helping those in need.
After his turn in the dunk tank, students were called up by grade level throughout the school day in timed increments to take turns at dunking a staff member. Music Teacher Sarah Burrows, whose daughter also attends Valley Vista Elementary, volunteered for the dunk tank. Building staff volunteered to be in the tank and many stepped up to the plate.
“I’m doing this for my daughter, who is a kindergartner here, and of course our entire student body that did such a great job,” Burrows said.
Mother Nature didn’t exactly pitch in help, as temps only reached about 65 degrees June 5 and the skies were gray and overcast. But the students didn’t mind as they cheered, “Dunk tank, dunk tank!” and took their chances throwing balls at the target and cheering one another on.
“Many students shared stories during the Jump Rope for Heart program about family and friends who have encountered heart conditions,” Costello said, in a quote released by the school district. “It’s great to see the students make connections while taking ownership in the fundraising. Each year we raise more than the last and finally coming in at No. 1 shows these students’ determination.”

Contributing Writer