When a Meadville elementary school student opted to take part in the Kids Heart Challenge this school year, physical education and health teacher Kolytn Eason set a goal of raising $ 2,000.
Instead, the West End Elementary School students would end up raising more than four times that amount at $ 9,053. and while it was certainly a group effort by all the kids at the school, one kindergartener in particular was especially responsible for helping reach that large sum.
Stella Heagy raised $ 3,030.24 for the challenge, roughly a third of the final total.
As to how the 7-year-old managed such a feat, it may have to do with how her own personal story resonated with the opportunity to help kids with heart defects.
Mindy Heagy, Stella’s mother, said her daughter was born with total anomalous pulmonary venous return (TAPVR), a heart condition which disrupts the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the heart. This necessitated a procedure to have the veins lead to and from her heart being removed, repaired and reattached to her heart.
“As far as surgery, it took about six hours,” Mindy said. “It was four days after she was born.”
The surgery was a success and, after an eight week convalescence, she was able to go home.
Nowadays, besides a zipper on her chest, Stella’s family said there’s no sign of the heart problems she faced so shortly after her birth.
“She has no restrictions, no limitations,” Mindy said. “You wouldn’t even know looking at her.”
Eason described Stella as a joy to have in class, a student who is always engaged in activities.
“She never really says much, but she always smiles ear to ear,” he said.
When the Kids Heart Challenge fundraiser came around, the Heagys shared Stella’s story on Facebook as they put up the link for people to donate. What followed was an unexpected deluge of donations, many of them coming in smaller dollar amounts but adding up quickly.
“People just came in from the woodworks,” Mindy said. She described the amount raised by the family as “unbelievable.”
For Stella’s part, she said she had a lot of fun raising the money. Especially since the school was giving out some prizes to the students as they gathered funds. In particular, her favorite item she got was a “big orange ball.”
However, while an extra bit of positive reinforcement, Eason said the students at West End weren’t primarily motivated by the toys they could receive. He said he stressed the importance of what they were doing.
“It was not for a toy or a prize, it was for a good cause,” he said.
As for how the school managed to exceed their total so heavily, that he credit to the generosity of Crawford County.
“I would mostly attribute it to the active lifestyle of the community and the parents always being engaged,” he said.
Indeed, while no single student had quite a total like Stella’s, many of them managed to bring in their own large donation amounts to the challenge. According to Eason, the second highest fundraiser in the challenge was a third grader who garnered around $ 900.
Eason was taken aback at how much the students were able to raise, especially over a relatively short amount of time. The challenge ran for 28 days in April.
This being the first year of introducing the challenge to the school, he thought it was going to be a challenge to get going. Now, Eason has other ideas.
“We look forward to doing it in the years to come,” he said.
Sean P. Ray can be reached at (814) 724-6370 or by email at[email protected]