The three top fundraisers

North Smithfield Elementary School’s top fundraisers: Aria D’Alessio, first place, Janae Alexander, third place, and Liam Mulhern, second place. Combined, these three students raised over $6,600 themselves.

NORTH SMITHFIELD – This year, students at North Smithfield Elementary School raised $42,957 for the American Heart Association through the Kids Heart Challenge. The top fundraisers were Aria D’Alessio in first place, Liam Mulhern in second place, and Janae Alexander in third place.

Overall, the total puts NSES in fourth place for the AHA Kids Heart Challenge in the northeast region, which stretches from Maine to Virginia. Though that fourth place ruling is yet unofficial, it will be officially announced in September, Pamela Authier told The Breeze. Authier, who has been teaching physical education and health in North Smithfield since 1987, was floored at the amount the students were able to raise.

“It’s like, holy moly, last year we hit $23,000 so our goal (this year) was $24,000,” Authier said.

Though this is a yearly fundraiser, Authier says she has no idea what she did differently from last year.

“There were little monster keychain prizes this year,” she said. “Each one had a different character, one for no vaping, fresh air.” Other than that, she said, she has no idea, though she always talks about heart health in the days and weeks leading up to the fundraiser. She also talks about why it’s important to do nice things for people.

Mark LaBossiere, now an administrator in Woonsocket, was until recently a physical education teacher at NSES. He said he waited a full week to take on his new role until after the Kids Heart Challenge so that he’d be able to wrap it up.

“This year, it really blew me away the amount of support that the community put toward that challenge,” LaBossiere said. LaBossiere spent two years at NSES after 12 years at the middle school, and said when he came to the school he knew how important it was to the culture.

“I think it has a direct impact (on the students) because, quite frankly, the AHA has provided us with a whole bunch of really neat online tools and educational curriculum,” LaBossiere said. “It elevates our heart program, especially now with things like vaping and all of these problems that are out there, making heart-healthy decisions for kids is very important and having any support from any organization is very helpful.”

In addition to resources, the school has been given a framed certificate for its high fundraising numbers. Students who are top fundraisers also get places in the school named after them. This year, NSES will boast the Aria D’Alessio Gymnasium, the Janae Alexander Rock Wall, and the Liam Mulhern Running Track.

Donna Tringali, the youth market director for the AHA in Rhode Island, told The Breeze that in her 27 years with the organization she’s never had school support as great as that in North Smithfield.

“The support is overwhelming,” Tringali said. “It’s very humbling for our organization.” She added that the success from NSES indicates that families trust what Authier and LaBossiere are teaching their students, and that’s why they receive the support that they do.

The money that children raise goes toward supporting researchers who are developing new methods to treat cardiovascular disease and stroke, education, CPR programs, and outreach for addressing health disparities in the community and advocating for equitable health care.

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