Students and staff at Cortland Elementary School care a lot about hearts.

Not the chocolate ones wrapped in shiny, pink or red foil or the ones cut out of construction paper for Valentine’s Day. But the hearts that really matter, because they are inside our bodies beating constantly to keep us alive.

By participating in Jump Rope for Heart this month, the school is supporting the American Heart Association, a nonprofit organization that increases awareness of cardiovascular disease and stroke and raises money for care, research and prevention related to heart disease.

For two weeks, students have been collecting donations from family, friends and neighbors. Depending on how much money they raise, students earn various prizes including jump ropes, T-shirts and a top prize of a tablet computer for collecting $1,000.

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Bonita Kleber, administrative assistant, said money was still coming in Friday, and the total amount wouldn’t be announced until Tuesday. But she was excited it was going to be more than last year.

In 2015, the school collected $5,714. This year’s goal was $6,200. The amount raised, however, stands to be significantly higher than both, Kleber said.

What makes the accomplishment even more impressive is the school has just 129 students, making it the smallest school in the Seymour district.

Besides Cortland, Seymour-Jackson and Seymour-Redding elementary schools also took part in Jump Rope for Heart. Emerson Elementary School is planning to conduct its fundraiser in March, and Margaret R. Brown Elementary School will jump in April. The program started at Brown some 20 years ago and Cortland has participated for more than 10 years.

“They work really hard and are pretty competitive,” Kleber said of Cortland students’ efforts. “I’m really proud of them.”

One student who takes Jump Rope for Heart seriously is Cortland fourth-grader Kylie Eglen, who raised $2,005 on her own this year. She typically brings in the most money of her classmates; however, she doesn’t do it to try to be the best.

“I want to raise the most money I can, because my Grandpa Eglen and my Grandpa Lambring have heart trouble, and so did my Great-Grandpa Stahl, who passed away,” she said.

Kylie spent around 20 hours total working to collect money. She visited neighbors and called relatives and family friends to ask if they would help. In almost every case, they did, she said.

One man she asked even told her he had an enlarged heart, and was glad to see her raising money to help people with heart problems.

“I wanted to give some of the money I raised to him,” Kylie said.

Every year, since kindergarten, Kylie has set a personal fundraising goal, but each year far exceeds it. By the time she graduates from Cortland Elementary in 2017, she hopes to have raised at least $10,000.

She follows in the footsteps of her older sister, Seymour High School student Kaelen Eglen, who also participated in Jump Rope for Heart when she was at Cortland.

Kylie said she feels it’s important to support charities such as the American Heart Association because of how many lives it helps save.

She also enjoys getting to spend time jumping rope with her friends during Jump Rope for Heart.

“We’re all doing it for a good cause,” she said.

Last week, students had the chance to spend time in their physical education classes jumping rope to help them build strong, healthy hearts.

Physical education teacher Allison Bowers said she set up different stations in the gym where each student had to learn nine jump rope tricks.

“Some of them are tricky,” Bowers said. “Like spinning 360 degrees or crossing and uncrossing your legs while jumping.”

New to Cortland, Bowers said she was nervous about leading the program this year because of how successful it’s been in the past under the leadership of Bob and Sharon Wood.

But she isn’t worried now, as the school is set to have a record-breaking year for Jump Rope for Heart.

“It’s impressive that a school this size has that much participation and can raise that much money,” she said.

Fourth-grader Brayden Rorick collected $110 and said Jump Rope for Heart is important to him personally because his cousin was born with a congenital heart defect.

“I want to be able to help my cousin and other kids like him that have heart disease so they can live long, healthy lives,” he said.

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January Rutherford is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. She can be reached at jrutherford@tribtown.com or 812-523-7069.