GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (GRPS) — It was a three-song dance party – with some deep-belly breathing in between songs – for 150 first, second, and third-graders (and Hearty, the official mascot of the American Heart Association) as Grand Rapids Public Schools celebrated Wear Red Day at North Park Montessori School.

Physical education teacher Kellie Kieren was the DJ for the day as the gym full of scholars sporting new, red bandanas kicked off American Heart Month to raise awareness about the impact of heart disease and stroke on women.

For Kieren the cause is personal.

Her dad and four of her uncles all died as a result of cardiomyopathy, a disease of the heart muscle that makes it harder for the heart to pump blood to the rest of the body.

A decade ago, Kieren began raising money for the American Heart Association via a variety of activities at North Park as part of the Kids Heart Challenge. In the years since she and her scholars have raised $115,000 for the AHA, including a grand total last year of $30,000 which made North Park one of the top five schools in the state.

“We’re a relatively small school,” Kieren said. “The work our scholars have done over the years to raise money for the AHA has been so impressive.”

GRPS Director of School Health Services Kim Baron partnered with Kieren and others at North Park for the Wear Red event to kick off American Heart Month.

“We encouraged all scholars and staff to pull out all of their red clothes and accessories to paint the district red on this day,” she said. “We all know someone who has been impacted by heart disease, whether we have a loved one who has died or someone suffering from chronic heart disease. We hope to raise awareness and show support to those we know and love who have been impacted.”