She may be an itty-bitty kindergartner, but 5-year-old Riley Dutcher dreams big. When Riley’s elementary school participated in the Jump Rope for Heart event earlier this month, Riley set a lofty goal for herself: to single-handedly raise $1,000 toward cardiovascular disease and stroke research.
Jump Rope for Heart is a national fundraising program that educates students about heart health issues while raising money for the American Heart Association. The cause is near and dear to Riley’s heart (no pun intended)—Riley’s aunt, 15-year-old Brooke Terrier, was born with a hole in her heart and had open-heart surgery performed at age 8.
“Riley understands that there is something wrong with Aunt Brooke’s heart,” explains Riley’s mom, Katherine Dutcher. “So when she heard about the program, she was inspired to get involved and raise money.”
With her parents by her side, Riley went around her neighborhood and knocked on doors, asking families and local businesses to sponsor her fundraising efforts. “She’s very shy,” Katherine says. “We were able to get a couple of large donations, but most of them were very small. It all added up very quickly. We were surprised that she was able to reach her goal in such a short period of time.”
In total, Edward Andrews Elementary students raised over $7,000 during the Jump Rope for Heart event. With her $1,000 donation, Riley spearheaded the school’s fundraising efforts and was recognized by the American Heart Association for her tremendous contribution to heart disease awareness.
“We’re all so proud of her,” Katherine says. “She jumped rope in her aunt’s honor.”