If you happen to see Cathy Massey walking around town with a big smile on her face, take a second to congratulate her.
That's because for the first time in her 13 years at Mansfield Elementary School, the underdog won.
A group of Mansfield students raised $7,100 over four weeks in the Jump Rope for Heart Program and finished with the highest total of all participating Newton County schools. And Massey, the school's physical education teacher, is a big reason why.
Massey conducts several different classes throughout the year, but says jumping and jump rope sits atop the list, and her kids get fidgety with anticipation.
"The kids can't wait to start the unit," Massey said. "They love doing the unit. They get about three weeks for it and they start asking me on the first day of school when is Jump Rope for Heart, and when do they get to start jumping."
The accomplishment is remarkable considering the size of the school. Mansfield's enrollment as of January 2008 stood at 501. That's nearly half the size of Oak Hill (851), who's contingent finished runner-up this year after winning in 2007.
Massey teaches approximately 400 kids, comprised of first through fifth graders, and says every student has an opportunity to participate in the program.
"This year we had 151 participants," Massey said. "We ask everyone if they'd like to do it and there is always a big response. They can do it if they want to, it's their choice."
Students raise donations throughout the four-week unit and are rewarded for there efforts with small prizes. The fundraising drive culminates with the Jump Rope for Heart jumping event which Massey says is the highlight of the unit.
"We end the unit with the Jump Rope for Heart event and I always have it after school on a Friday," added Massey. "The kids go from one event to the other, and the parents get involved, helping the kids. We have small, fun competitions and everyone enjoys themselves."
The event is sponsored by the parent teacher organization, not the school, and Massey is grateful for the community involvement. Additionally, the Bank of North Georgia, donated all the snacks for the event as they have the previous 12 years.
"We couldn't do this with out the help of the PTO and especially the bank," Massey said. "They provided all my snacks, and they're (snacks) always healthy. The parents get involved too, throwing the rope and everything. It's a great way for everyone to have fun."