By JUDY SHERARD
Jumping rope becomes more than just a fun activity for some Hays USD 489 elementary students this time of year as they participate in the Jump Rope for Heart fundraiser for American Heart Association.
Mark Watts' third-, fourth- and fifth-grade physical education classes at O'Loughlin Elementary Schol in Hays are participating this week.
It was scheduled for last week, but postponed because of the snow days, he said.
This year, the activity hits close to home for fifth-grader Reaghan Haynes.
Reaghan has put her heart into the cause "because my dad died of heart disease," she said.
Her father, Darren Haynes, died following a heart attack Aug. 7 at age 38.
"This year, she's jumping for her daddy," said Chrissy Haynes, Reaghan's mother.
The Haynes family is well-known in the medical community.
Darren Haynes was a flight paramedic registered nurse for the Hays-based EagleMed helicopter for 13 years before his death. Before that, he was an Ellis County EMT.
Chrissy Haynes works in the intensive care unit at Hays Medical Center.
Reaghan started with a goal of raising $400 for the American Heart Association. She reached that goal in two days with donations from her mother's co-workers in the ICU and HaysMed.
They raised the goal to $1,000 and had surpassed that Wednesday with a total of $1,500, Reaghan said.
The students have until Feb. 28 to turn in their money, so the total could increase.
"Darren's colleagues also have contributed," Chrissy Haynes said.
Watts uses the event as part of Healthy Heart Week, which includes a fitness calendar and discussions about healthy habits.
The students jump rope for two class periods, trying different techniques such as the skier and bell, and even jumping with partners.
Students also draw posters to bring attention to the event.
Reaghan has a sister, Briley, 7, who's also a student at O'Loughlin.
It's been hard for the girls, but the fundraiser has helped show them they're "not too little to make a difference," Chrissy Haynes said.
"That was sad. They were a close-knit family. And when that happened, it just breaks everybody's heart," Watts said.
"She is really putting her heart and soul into this event to collect money for heart research and to help others with heart problems," Reaghan's grandmother Rita Kofoid, said in an email.