Last Friday, Aldrich Junior High School students took part in their annual Hoops For Heart, but this year’s event was extra special. It was held in memory of Martha Whitaker, Aldrich’s former physical education teacher who lost her battle with kidney cancer in September at age 47.
“Hoops For Heart was her baby,” explained special education teacher Diane Chaplin, who was close friends with Whitaker. “They’re trying to do it big this year, raise more than they have in the past.”
Hoops For Heart is a fundraising event for the American Heart Association. Students raise a minimum of $20 to be able to go down to the gym and participate in basketball activities such as shoot out contests for two periods of the day. The morning was divided into two sections, one for eighth graders and another for seventh graders.
To add more to the event this year, students that raised $30 or more participated in a basketball tournament in the afternoon, after lunch period.
“It’s a special tournament for the more competitive kids. There’s all different levels [of basketball skills],” said Susan Perkins Brillat, Aldrich physical education teacher.
The school raised $3,700 for the American Heart Association, $100 more than their goal of $3,600. Perkins Brillat said 90 students participated in the event.
In addition to the funds raised by students, a special raffle of different gift baskets was put together for faculty in collaboration with the faculty at Gorton Junior High School.
While everyone seemed to be having a great time playing basketball, Whitaker wasn’t far from everyone’s mind.
“Since Mrs. Whitaker passed away, she was always really into this stuff; it’s nice to do this for her,” said eighth grader Julia Conti.
Eighth grader Matt Woods agreed, adding that Whitaker was a teacher who really cared about her students.
“If you needed anything, she was there for you,” said Woods. “She was one of my favorite teachers.”
Conti said Whitaker was also one of her favorite teachers and remembers she had a great sense of humor.
“She was always laughing,” said Conti.
Woods also recognized that Hoops For Heart helps a lot of people who need it.
“It’s important because the money goes to people who can’t afford all this medical care,” he said.
Donna Tringali, youth market director for the Rhode Island Chapter of the American Heart Association, came by the event to present the school with their participation banner and accept their donation check. She also recognized the commitment made by Whitaker to this cause and hoped the students never forgot that.
“I hope every time you participate in Hoops For Heart, or see the banners, you would not only think of keeping yourself healthy and helping those who need it, but think of individuals like Martha who thought this cause was important,” said Tringali.
Whitaker’s husband Don and mother, Margaret “Bunny” Enos, also stopped by the event to see what Whitaker loved so much.
“I’m just so impressed that they raised so much money for the Heart Association. It’s nice for [Martha] to be remembered this way,” said Enos.
“It was very nice. I enjoyed it,” said Don about being able to watch the kids participate. “I know my wife was really involved. It was nice to be here and see what she did. She enjoyed it and she was really good at it.”
Aldrich Junior High has participated in Hoops For Heart every year since 2002.