The final numbers are in for Hayward, Wisconsin: Students in the town of 2,313 officially finished second in the nation raising funds for heart health through the American Heart Association’s Jump Rope For Heart program.
The total of $100,500 raised by Hayward primary and intermediate schools is more than double the amount raised last year, and it tops many significantly larger schools across the country.
The only school finishing higher than Hayward was French Road Elementary in Rochester, New York, which this year broke the Jump Rope For Heart record with more than $107,000. On average, a school raises about $2,000 for a program like Jump Rope For Heart.
“We are all so proud of living in a community that works together,” said Kylah Eckes, a high school counselor in the district whose infant son survived heart problems and now serves and an inspiration to many students in the program.
Jump Rope For Heart is a national educational fundraising program sponsored by the American Heart Association and SHAPE America. Kids in the program collect donations for their jump-roping efforts, and funds go toward research and education to prevent and treat heart disease, the nation’s No. 1 killer.
While the program raises money and encourages physical activity, it also teaches kids about the effects of congenital heart defects and other heart problems.
Cole Eckes was born with a congenital heart defect. He was just 12 weeks old when the family discovered what they thought was a tumor on his lung. It was actually in his heart, attached to the back wall of his left ventricle. At the time surgery was too risky, she went on they put him on medication instead.
When Cole was 7 months old, he went into cardiac arrest. His father used CPR and the family’s automated external defibrillator to resuscitate him, but Cole when into cardiac arrest again at a hospital in Minneapolis. A few months later, as Cole was heading into surgery to remove the mass, the Eckes said their last goodbyes to him just in case.
But he lived, and he hasn’t had an episode since.
“He’s literally the picture of an absolute miracle,” his mother said.
Cole, now 4, attended the Jump Rope For Heart event where his first-grader sister Tara was a participant.
“His story has definitely encouraged others,” Tara Eckes said. “This teaches such a good lesson to students.”
In Hayward, located about 75 miles southeast of Duluth, Minn., the entire community is behind the campaign – something not typically seen with other Jump Rope For Heart programs.
Eckes said the program does a great job teaching the town’s students the importance of being involved in the community.
And, of course, they learn many aspects of heart health. That’s especially meaningful to Eckes, who has become a strong advocate for infant CPR education since her husband saved Cole when he was a baby.
“He breathed life into Cole,” Eckes said.