Having a heart

Middle school student raising awareness, money for American Heart Month

Heart health is very important for Jameson Gagnon.

Both of his parents developed heart issues following an illness a few years back, with his dad still requiring regular medical care. And just about a year ago his grandmother underwent a quadruple bypass. 

“There’s always a cardiac component in our house,” said Jameson’s mother, Joanne.

February is American Heart Month, but the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has tripped up many of the traditional school-based awareness, education, and fundraising activities. 

That wasn’t acceptable for Jameson; the Abington Middle School 5th grader has become a one man advocacy agency this month. On Feb. 2, he rallied his online class to wear red to mark National Wear Red Day. He also prepared a powerpoint presentation for his class that’s subsequently been shared in other middle school classes. And he’s taken over his mom’s Facebook account, posting videos in an effort to raise money. 

“I want [people] to know February is heart month and you should keep your heart healthy, because your heart is a muscle and you only have one,” Jameson said. 

Last year Jameson raised $500 as part of the Kids Heart Challenge, one of the month-long campaign’s signature events. He was one of Abington’s top fundraisers and received a “Heart Hero” cape in recognition of his efforts. 

This year, with the in-person group activities cancelled because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Jameson continued to raise funds. He quickly surpassed his original goal of $500. He raised the bar to $1,000 and surged past that. Now his fundraising total is about to cross $1,600.  

“I haven’t seen that much money,” Jameson said. 

Joanne Gagnon, a nurse, said she thinks it was her mother’s health scare that really motivated her son. 

“When he talks to her, he says, ‘Grandma, guess how much I’ve raised’,” Gagnon said, adding that Jameson will also tell her: “Well, I’m doing this for you, grandma.” 

For Valentine’s Day, Jameson delivered little red bags to homes in his neighborhood that included a red heart stress ball and information on heart health. He also prepared bags for staff at the Middle School staff that included Cheerios (a heart healthy snack).

“We are so proud of the work that [Jameson] has done,” said Middle School Principal Matthew MacCurtain. “He provided an impressive heart health slideshow that is in rotation on our digital displays and he is working with our new student run newsletter group to write an article.”

Gagnon said she’s proud of the way her son has set goals and always wants to do more.

“For an 11-year-old, i just think its pretty amazing,” she said. “You can see in his videos how happy and excited he is.”

Jameson said one of his next goals is to learn hands-only CPR. The best strategies to remain heart healthy are simple, he says: exercise and get some rest.

“Eating healthy is also a good way,” he said.

Anyone interested in making a donation can check out Jameson’s Kids Heart Challenge page.

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