"Jump Rope for Heart" Fundraiser Kicks Off Heart Month & National Wear Red Day


By Heather VacLav

Heart disease is the number one killer in Alabama.
The very serious statistic makes the 10th anniversary of National Wear Red Day more important than ever before for Alabamians to take action against heart disease.
Steve Jackson, director of Cardiovascular Services at Baptist South says heart disease is mostly formed habits, habits that are hard for many Alabamians to break without incentive.
"[People say] I know I got a little bit of diabetes and I know that I don't exercise and I know that I do this or do that, or I dont do that, but somewhere at the end of the day, knowing all of that, the call to action is just not there," Jackson said.
Some area schools are starting the "call to action" with their students at a young age. Kingergarten through 5th graders at Alabama Christian Academy (ACA) are doing their part with the American Heart Association's Jump Rope For Heart. Last year, students raised more than $30,000 in 30 days, which is more money than any other school in Alabama.
This year, the school hopes to beat its record, and in doing so, helping students learn to break Alabama's habits linked to heart disease.
CBS-8 weekend anchor Heather VacLav was one of several speakers at ACA's pep rally, where she promised the students to Jump Rope for Heart with them at the end of the fundraiser.
About 300 students are in the K-5 school, which means on average each student raises $100, but some students, like Jordan Wilson go above and beyond. The 3rd grader was the top earner last year, with more than $800.
"I did my part to save a heart, I raised a lot of money to help save people's lives," Wilson said. "Because it makes me feel happy."
The fundraiser lasts all month long, then on March 1st, they actually jump rope to celebrate their success.
"We try to teach our kids that part of what the Lord wants us to do is help other people," Physical Education Specialist Patti Turner said. "By helping the American Heart Association we are helping others."
"I'm just going all around the neighborhood and all around the church to ask people if they can donate money to the American Heart Association so we can save a life," Tyler Bradley said.
Jackson says teaching kids healthier habits early on will help combat environmental factors that cause people to smoke, have high blood pressure or be overweight/obese.
"We just gotta keep chipping away at that mountain, and keep trying to educate, keep trying to encourage it, keep trying to do everything in our power to address this devastating disease process," Jackson said.
Many people at CBS-8 News supported "Wear Red Day" and donned red outfits.
"Heart disease is near and dear to my heart because I was born with a heart condition," VacLav said. 
All throughout Heart month, CBS-8 will follow Heather working with the American Heart Association to fight heart disease.
For more information or to volunteer, visit the American Heart Association and learn how to fight heart disease in Alabama.

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