KINGSVILLE, Texas, June 9, 2023 — A sixth grader from Kingsville has been selected by the American Heart Association, a global force for healthier lives for all, to serve as a national Youth Heart Ambassador for the 2023-2024 school year. Gael Perez, 11, will work closely with the American Heart Association’s in-school programs, Kids Heart Challenge™ and American Heart Challenge™ to actively and passionately champion other children to establish healthy habits to better mental and physical well-being.
The American Heart Association accepted nominations from young people who have been affected by heart disease or stroke either through a personal diagnosis, diagnosis of a loved one, or have made a personal lifestyle change, to serve in the Youth Heart Ambassador role.
Last year, Gael’s mom, Alyssa Rodriguez, posted videos to her Facebook page featuring Gael challenging others to give to the cause he holds dear. For every monetary milestone, Gael completed various physical feats – doing 100 jumping jacks, running and jumping rope, among other activities. Gael was then a student at N.M. Harrel Elementary School.
“To him, it didn’t matter what the prizes were,” said Gael’s dad, Ruben Perez. “It was about ‘doing more,’ – more physical challenges that would encourage people to make donations. He raised $1,000 during the 2021-22 school year and another $2,000 in the school year that recently ended.
“He took it upon himself to do these challenges to raise money and awareness about taking care of our hearts,” his mom said. Videos of Gael exercising can also be found on Tik Tok. “He enjoys doing the challenges and encourages us to exercise more at home.”
The Youth Heart Ambassadors serve a one-year commitment as a volunteer of the American Heart Association assisting the organization to be a relentless force for healthier lives for all. The position gives youth a voice to encourage, advocate and underscore the need for to raise critical funding as they share the impact cardiovascular disease has had on their life.
“Gael has been an inspiration for his family, his peers and his community to prioritize health and help others,” said Sonia Marines, director of development for American Heart Association youth programs in an area that includes Kingsville. “He reminds others that there is always time to take care of yourself, and his passion for helping others is contagious.”
Rooted in physical activity, Kids Heart Challenge™ and American Heart Challenge™ are service-learning programs that teach students how to improve their overall health while doing good for the health of others. Through interactive curriculums and various online challenges, participating students get active and have fun while raising funds and awareness for congenital heart defects, nutrition security, CPR training, mental well-being and more. These collective efforts help further the American Heart Association’s mission to be a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives.
Schools interested in participating in either Kids Heart Challenge™ or American Heart Challenge™ receive expanded curriculum resources for both classrooms and in-home learning environments can register now for next school year. To learn more about our school programs please visit www.heart.org/schools. More information can be found online, heart.org/youthambassadors.
About the American Heart Association
The American Heart Association is a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives. We are dedicated to ensuring equitable health in all communities. Through collaboration with numerous organizations, and powered by millions of volunteers, we fund innovative research, advocate for the public’s health and share lifesaving resources. The Dallas-based organization has been a leading source of health information for nearly a century. Connect with us on heart.org, Facebook, Twitter or by calling 1-800-AHA-USA1.
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