by Tori Hamby

CORNELIUS – One local school has raised more than $7,700 for the American Heart Association’s Jump Rope for Heart event, more than tripling last year’s total.

Students at J.V. Washam Elementary in Cornelius, led by physical education teachers Craig Higgins and Hayley Oliver, participated in the annual Jump Rope for Heart fundraiser, which encourages students to raise money for the American Heart Association while learning about the importance of heart health and exercise. This year students raised $7,719.

“As a school, we learned how to keep our heart healthy,” Higgins said. “During P.E. we focused on the heart and how we can help other people keep their hearts healthy.”

J.V. Washam Elementary and Providence Spring Elementary in Charlotte have raised a combined total $25,000. Other Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools are still tallying up their totals.

“Last year (J.V. Washam Elementary) raised about $2,000,” said Brittany Sweeney, youth market director at the American Heart Association. “This year they raised more than three times that amount, which is very good.”

All of the donations go to the American Heart Association to help fund research that could save millions of lives, Sweeney said. The Center for Disease Control states that cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S, with one in every three deaths attributed to heart disease or stroke.

All students at the school, from kindergarten to fifth grade, participated in the fundraiser. Most students set a fundraising goal of $15.

During January, students spent a month gathering pledges from friends and family. Fundraising coincided with a focus on cardiovascular exercises and activities, especially jumping rope, that build up heart health, Higgins said. Students also learn about heart diseases and defects that can affect children who are their age.

“I think when a lot of kids think about heart problems they think of people who are older,” Higgins said. “We are very lucky here at J.V. Washam not to have any kids here who have heart problems, but there are very young children who can’t lead normal lives because of heart defects.”

First-grader Tessa Wright, the school’s top fundraiser, didn’t know how to jump rope when the event first kicked off, but eventually learned after lots of practice. Tessa raised $260.

“It’s important to keep your heart healthy because, if you don’t you can’t do many things without getting tired,” Tessa said.

Tessa’s mother, Cara Wright, said her daughter received a thank you letter from the American Heart Association that told of a 7-year-old boy who was diagnosed with a severe heart defect and explained that the money raised will help children like him. She said reading the letter to her daughter provided a great opportunity to teach her about not taking good health for granted.

“I asked her ‘Can you imagine being 7 years old and not being able to do what you do?’” Cara Wright said.

Want to know more?

Visit the American Heart Association’s Jump Rope for Heart website at