Molalla, Oregon, October 6, 2023 — The American Heart Association’s school-based youth programs, Kids Heart Challenge™ and American Heart Challenge™, awarded $1,573 to Molalla River Academy in Molalla, for increasing core strength in PE classes. The annual grant program supports schools by funding resources to extend school wellness programs.

“Here at the American Heart Association, we’re helping educators make whole-body wellness a priority by bringing more resources to school campuses,” said Katie Singer, American Heart Association school engagement development director.  “Grant recipients are now able to expand their schools’ wellness offerings with additions such as physical activity equipment, water bottle filling stations and educator training opportunities on their campuses.” She also said the application process was open to all schools who participated in the school-based programs in the 2022-2023 school year.

Molalla River Academy has a history of working with the Association. In 2021-2022 the school received the National Heart Healthy School Award, recognizing them for outstanding achievement in creating a robust culture of health and wellbeing through their Leadership Team.

Kids Heart Challenge is managed by PE teacher Gina Harnish and her Leadership Team students who are helping to elevate the culture of health and wellbeing at Molalla River Academy.  Leadership Team students incorporate educational resources and activities provided by the American Heart Association, encourage students to get involved in the challenge and empower students to make a difference by helping others and supporting the mission of the Association.

Outside of Kids Heart Challenge, Molalla River Academy is the prime example of a “Heart Healthy” school. They have a rigorous physical education program, an outdoor garden with nutrition education incorporated into their curriculum and provide opportunities throughout the year to encourage healthy living within their community (5K school runs, assisting fundraisers, implementing the Kids Heart Challenge and creating active games for recess/PE class. Participating in the program serves as students’ service-learning project for the year, while building upon their wellness efforts as a school community.

“Our Leadership Team understands that physical activity is important, and students learn better when they move their bodies,” said a Molalla River Academy Leadership Team member. “We have fun creating games that encourage students to be active while they're having fun!"

Kids Heart Challenge offers a variety of physical activities to get elementary students’ hearts pumping such as dance, basketball or jumping rope paired with digital missions to learn life-saving skills like Hands-Only CPR™. The American Heart Challenge is a service-learning program for middle and high school students. The program also helps boost heart health and self-esteem, while reducing stress and anxiety through programs featuring yoga, dance and obstacle courses. Both programs’ curriculums help prepare kids for success by supporting physical and emotional well-being, while offering new learning resources and physical activities to meet the needs of today’s youth and educators.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, only 20% of kids get enough activity to meet physical activity recommendations. Both the Kids Heart Challenge and American Heart Challenge are rooted in proven science, which has shown that kids who are regularly active have a better chance of a healthy adulthood.

In addition to physical health, the benefits of physical activity for children include improved grades, school attendance and classroom behavior. Physical activity can also help kids feel better, improve mental health, build self-esteem, and decrease and prevent conditions such as anxiety and depression.

Funds raised by Kids Heart Challenge and American Heart Challenge participants support the American Heart Association’s scientific research and outreach programs, paving the way for improved health outcomes for healthier communities. Schools are encouraged to register now for 2023-2024 school year. The program will provides funding twice a year, mid-school year and year end, to provide resources in real time to students. The next grant application deadline is December 15, 2023.

To learn more about the American Heart Association’s kids initiatives, or to make a donation, please visit


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, Facebook, X or by calling 1-800-AHA-USA1.   

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