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Lyons Elementary students raise $8,179 for 2021-22 Kids Heart Challenge

Mrs. Sue Mack, one of Lyons Elementary School’s longtime Physical Education teachers, will be wrapping up a colorful, bright and busy 35-year career at the district at the end of the school year.

During her three-plus decades at Lyons, Mrs. Mack has taught thousands of kids — some now even parents to the children in her more recent classes — and helped foster a love of learning and physical activity in all her students’ lives.

She’s also led the district in raising $117,805 for the American Heart Association in the last 20 years.

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“This place means as much to me as my own family,” Mrs. Mack said. “For our small community — which is such a caring community — to be able to raise in 20 years that type of money just shows what a special place this is.”

The Kids Heart Challenge, formerly known as Jump Rope For Heart, is a community service project that both the district and Mrs. Mack have been strongly committed to since the 2000-01 school year.

For this year’s challenge, Mrs. Mack led students in grades 3-6 through two straight days of four square games in April that raised $8,179, the second-highest dollar amount ever raised for the project, Mrs. Mack said.

After the American Heart Association switched Jump Rope For Heart to Kids Heart Challenge, it presented an opportunity to try out new cardiovascular activities, Mrs. Mack explained. Four square, as it turns out, was an absolute hit with the students and staff.

About 75 students participated in the challenge and about 30 teachers and staff members helped promote the event and even played in some of the games as well, Mrs. Mack said.

The way the Lyons community rallies around a good cause has always been an uplifting, heartwarming part of the job, Mrs. Mack said. The character of the students and staff in the district make her feel so honored to be a part of the school community.

“As I am reflecting over the last 35 years being here at Lyons Elementary School and that winding down very quickly, I am most proud of the kids and this community and this staff,” Mrs. Mack said. “They are my absolute family.”

Lyons Superintendent Dr. Matthew Barr said Mrs. Mack has long been an important pillar of the school community. Her contagious enthusiasm and deep dedication to students have been the core values she upheld for the entirety of her 35-year career.

“Sue Mack has brought decades of energy and fun and passion into this school district, and although we’re sad to see her retire, we’re very excited for this next chapter in her life,” Dr. Barr said. “Generations of students have loved having Mrs. Mack as a teacher, and it has been a joy and an honor for the district to have had her for as long as we did.”

Anne Cook, a former Lyons Elementary teacher who retired in 2016, said she distinctly remembers Mrs. Mack always raising her hand to be involved in anything she could. From coaching soccer teams to taking a pie in the face at a pep rally, Mrs. Mack did not shy away from anything remotely related to school spirit.

Mrs. Cook also said she’s not surprised to hear that Mrs. Mack has helped the district raise more than $100,000 for charity.

“Her ability to reach those massive goals has to do with a combination of things, but a lot of it is just her motivating the kids,” Mrs. Cook said. “And she’s been there long enough where a lot of the parents have even participated in Jump Rope For Heart. Everyone wants to help her help others.”

Mrs. Cook said she’d describe Mrs. Mack as the kind of person you’d want to be stranded on a deserted island with. She’s funny, she’s good to be with and she’s good-hearted, all traits that have made her an excellent coworker and an excellent teacher for the last three decades.

“She still has the same energy and enthusiasm — you would never think she was on her 35th year of teaching,” Mrs. Cook said. “Her identity as a teacher is a really big part of who she is. I think some part of her will always hold onto that.”