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Students fuel creativity with a cause for National Heart Month


This year, Porter Regional Hospital joined with local students to advocate the awareness of National Heart Month through works of art or, ‘heart-work.’ The project was inspired by the message, “Show Us Your Heart”, encouraging 3rd- 5th graders from some Porter County elementary schools to get creative in a meaningful way. Today, students from Portage Township School Corporation, Duneland School Corporation, and Valparaiso School Corporation showcased their artwork at Porter Regional Hospital.

“The idea ‘Show Us Your Heart’ was created as away for students to think about the importance of heart health and what it means to them. One of our hospitals did a similar contest for high schoolers in the past and this year we decided to try it at the elementary level,” said Karin Birchel, Regional Community Programming coordinator.

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Twenty finalists from the three participating school corporations had their artwork exhibited at both Porter Regional Hospital and Portage Hospital for the entirety of National Heart Month. The hospital’s cardiology team voted to select one winner from each school. The three winners were:

Ramsey Corrado, a fifth grader at Cooks Corner Elementary in Valparaiso

Maliyah Alexander, fifth grader at Paul Saylor Elementary in Portage and

Han Phan, a fifth grader at Liberty Intermediate in Chesterton

The hospital framed their artwork before returning it to them and each also received an award presented by Sean Dardeau, Porter Regional Hospital CEO and Northwest Indiana Market CEO.

“Thank you for brightening up our lobby with your artwork, it is much appreciated. The talent shown in this artwork is just remarkable,“ Dardeau said. “And I think you and the other students whose art is on display have done a good job of encouraging healthy heart habits.”

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Birchel, the coordinator for the project, explained the process and how the others involved transformed the ideas into a reality.

“We worked with school corporations and art teachers – the art teachers were instrumental in the project. The hospital provided the paper and students provided artwork,” Birchel said. “We know, from research, that the best way to instill healthy habits is to start educating children when young and encouraging them to think about their health.”

Han Phan, a student at Duneland School Corporation, explained the process of her winning art project. “I created this heart. I put more hearts around it that have healthy sayings in them that would help the heart, like vegetables and fruit,” Phan said. “It was so fun, I like doing art like this.”

Marilynn Pester, art teacher at Saylor Elementary School, and Brooke Sutter, art teacher at Duneland School Corporation, admired their student's creations. They both explained how the project was implemented.

“Every student went in a different direction, and many teachers approached this differently, too,” Pester said. “Every student took away something different. They could dig in as much as they wanted. Some actually researched what an actual heart looks like, and blood flow.”

“We did research and brainstorming together to get started. They started realizing that there were no rules to the project,” Sutter said. “I didn't want to stifle their creativity. I am working very hard to get them in that flow, of researching, finding inspiring artwork, things that inspire them to be healthy.”

The “Show Us Your Heart” project facilitated the exploration of the creative process to a deeper level, combining a meaningful cause with creativity. This type of advocacy teaches students that they can and are making a difference in their community.

“More than anything,” Pester said, “students were excited that their art could help someone having a bad day, or someone even going through heart surgery to see a positive light.”

For more information about Porter Regional Hospital, visit their website.  

Porter Regional Hospital
85 East U.S. Highway 6
Valparaiso, IN 46383
219 - 983 - 8300
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