Poland school community continues efforts to remember student, support American Heart Association
Nov. 20, 2018
Poland Central School District’s Poland Has Heart team for the American Heart Association recently once again won the association’s award for the school raising the most money. The team is partially in honor of Alyssa Pomichter, who passed away in 2007 as a Poland first-grader. Pictured, students who were first-graders last school year and participated in the American Heart Association’s Indoor Heart Walk at Sangertown Square in February pose on Nov. 9 with the award, first-grade teacher Karen Livingston, Alyssa’s mother Patricia Linneen and Patricia Linneen’s daughters: Poland 11th grader Alexia Pomichter, third-grader Gracie Linneen and first-grader Addyson Linneen.
POLAND – When Poland Central School District first-grader Alyssa Pomichter passed away unexpectedly in 2007 from cardiac arrest with no previous diagnosis of any problems, her family, classmates, teacher Karen Livingston and others got involved with raising money for the American Heart Association.
The plan was originally to honor Alyssa through American Heart Association walks with her classmates through elementary school, Livingston said. The involvement with the walks and other efforts, however, continued each year – by her classmates, students in first-grade and the school in general.
Alyssa’s classmates participated as seniors in the association’s Indoor Heart Walk at Sangertown Square last school year in February – along with students then in first grade – before graduating in June.
“We just kept going,” Livingston said. “We’ve always had the support.”
Jaime Evanoff, director of development for the American Heart Association of the Mohawk Valley, recently presented the Poland Has Heart team for America’s Greatest Heart Run and Walk with the Schools Highest Pledge Award. The award goes to the school district raising the most money, and Poland has won the award every year except one dating back to 2006.
“That’s unbelievable,” Evanoff said.
In 1995, Poland 3-year-old Ben Poplaski, who is now in his mid-20s, was diagnosed with an aortic valve issue and later had to undergo valve replacement surgery. In 2002, what is now known as the Bionic Ben Team for America’s Greatest Heart Run & Walk was formed, and in 2006, the team merged with the school team.
In 2007, after Alyssa passed away, Rosina Olezeski, who was then a teacher aide, approached Alyssa’s parents Patricia and Dain Linneen about creating Team Alyssa, and the team was started that year. One aspect of the fundraising is displaying a photo of Alyssa in the hallway and having people donate to put heart images up on the wall around her.
The Poland Has Heart Team is now a combination of a general school team, Team Alyssa and the Bionic Ben Team, and Livingston took over Olezeski’s role as team captain of Poland Has Heart after Olezeski retired a few years ago.
Evanoff presented the award to Livingston and Dain Linneen on Oct. 19 in Livingston’s classroom. Poland Has Heart raised about $2,900 last school year, Evanoff said.
The Poland school community’s continued support has been a way to remember Alyssa and set a good example for other students, Evanoff said.
“There’s just no better way to honor her,” Evanoff said. “You’re inspiring people to do a good thing – especially at this young age.”
Livingston reflected on when she first found out that Alyssa passed away and described it as “not a call teachers think they will ever get.” The goal of the efforts for her has been about honoring Alyssa, she said.
“It was just to keep her memory alive,” Livingston said.
Dain Linneen said the goal also has been to “raise awareness and make sure something positive comes out of it.” Through the years, the support has been amazing, he said.
“She won’t be forgotten, that’s for sure,” he said.
Dain Linneen said he appreciates the work that has done by Livingston and others at the school to keep the effort going.
“I’m proud of everybody,” he said.
Patricia and Dain Linneen have three daughters in school at Poland: 11th grader Alexia Pomichter, third-grader Gracie Linneen and first-grader Addyson Linneen.
Alyssa would have graduated last school year, and a chair was left empty for her at graduation, Patricia Linneen said. Her classmates were supportive throughout the years and shared memories of her, Patricia Linneen said.
Seeing the efforts last through when Alyssa would have graduated and beyond comes with a lot of emotion.
“It’s bittersweet,” Patricia Linneen said. “I’m very thankful. Mrs. Livingston has done an amazing job keeping her memory alive.”
Patricia Linneen said she gives her thanks to everyone who has helped through the years, and she appreciates that new groups of first-graders get involved in supporting the American Heart Association each year.
“What a great cause,” she said. “It’s something they can carry with them throughout their lives.”
Poland Central School District’s Poland Has Heart team for the American Heart Association recently once again won the association’s award for the school raising the most money. The team is partially in honor of Alyssa Pomichter, who passed away in 2007 as a Poland first-grader. Pictured, American Heart Association of the Mohawk Valley Director of Development Jaime Evanoff (right) presents the award to Alyssa’s father Dain Linneen (center) and Poland first-grade teacher Karen Livingston (left).
Poland Central School District seniors, first-graders and family members of Alyssa Pomichter, who passed away unexpectedly from cardiac arrest in 2007 as a Poland first-grader, pose for a photo on Wednesday, Feb. 28, before participating in the American Heart Association’s Indoor Heart Walk at Sangertown Square.
Poland Central School District students who were seniors at the time walk in the American Heart Association’s Indoor Heart Walk on Wednesday, Feb. 28, at Sangertown Square. Poland students who were then first-graders also participated in the walk.