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Forced Charity in Schools: Right or Wrong?

I am really annoyed, and I don’t know whether I have a right, or whether I’m over-thinking. At my daughter’s school they are running a program this week called Jump Rope for Heart. The American Heart Association distributes a packet through the school, which includes a pledge sheet and leaflets detailing the prizes the kids can win for bringing in different amounts of money. They earn this money by signing up sponsors, who pledge a certain amount for each jump the child makes in a jump-rumping competition in gym class.

Sounds innocent enough, right? It bugs me to death. My 7-year-old has gotten it in her mind that if she doesn’t participate, someone somewhere is going to die of a heart attack. I doubt anyone at school put it this way, but she is insistent upon participating for that reason. I have tried telling her it is optional, and not to worry about it, but she says that her gym teacher says “even $5 will help.” Who is the gym teacher to put out the message to a 7-year-old she’s not a nice kid if she doesn’t cough up $5? The mother of her friend has told me her child is less altruistic, but also set on participating in order to gain the prizes.

Now, needless to say I have nothing against the American Heart Association or their worthwhile mission. Nor will $5 break me. So what’s my problem? My problem is with an outside entity essentially marketing to my child with the school’s help, without my permission. A much better way to go about it would be to send a note home in advance, saying: We’re going to be participating in Jump Rope for Heart. Would you like your child to receive the materials?

This seemingly small event has caused surprising dissention in my household. Part of my problem is that this comes immediately on the heels of Girl Scout cookie season. I just hit everyone I know up to buy cookies. I am certainly not going back to all of them again asking for jump-rope sponsorships. My husband says I’m being ridiculous, that the kids are learning about giving to others, and nobody is going to mind sponsoring her. Well, I mind asking! I’ve become so angry at the stress this has called, I said I was going to call the school and complain. My poor daughter, so worried she’s somehow going to get into trouble if she doesn’t reel in those pledges, started crying, pleading with me not to call!  I promised her I wouldn’ I’m blogging about it instead!

So, fellow parents: charity packets distributed directly to kids in school...yes or no?