Heart and Stroke fundraiser underway at Benalto School

Benalto Elementary School students celebrated the beginning of a fundraising campaign in style last Thursday.

Benalto Elementary School students celebrated the beginning of a fundraising campaign in style last Thursday.

They took part in a number of jump rope activities during an assembly held to mark the beginning of Jump With Jeremy — named after a former Benalto School student, Jeremy Williamson, who has cancer.

The two-week fundraiser is now in its fifth year and funds collected are donated to a different charity each year.

This year’s charity, as chosen by the Williamson family, is Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada.

Representatives of the charity and its Jump Rope for Heart program attended the school’s kickoff assembly to thank students for supporting the charity, and talk to them about the importance of living a healthy and active lifestyle.

“Fundraising for Heart and Stroke Foundation is very important, and we want to thank you guys for doing such hard work for us,” said fundraising co-ordinator Kim Elson.

Also addressing the students was Austin McGrath, who, at the age of 20, suffered cardiac arrest while swimming.

McGrath told students his heart stopped beating for 15 minutes, resulting in him being hospitalized for 47 days.

He suffered memory loss, and had to relearn how to walk and talk.

“It was because of people like you that I am able to stand here and tell you my story today,” he told students. “Because of someone like you, I am enrolled in college and going to university.”

McGrath said bystanders were the first to notice something wasn’t right with him that day at the pool.

“It wasn’t the lifeguard, it was two bystanders getting in the hot tub,” he said. “It’s everyday people that notice the signs of a heart attack or cardiac arrest or a stroke.”

The Heart and Stroke Foundation does much to educate people on the signs of heart problems, he said.

A year after he was released from hospital, McGrath swam across Sylvan Lake in support of the foundation, raising more than $10,000 in the process.

Students of Benalto School will raise money for the charity by collecting pledges, and through recess ice cream sales.

Fundraising began last Friday with a garage and bake sale. Donation jars have been placed in each of the school’s classroom. A jar will also be at Benalto store for the duration of the fundraiser.

Later in the month, a celebration day will be held at the school, where students will learn if they achieved their $1,000 goal.

Williamson, whose younger brother attends the school, will be at the celebration.

In previous years, the fundraiser has seen as much as $2,700 raised for charities, which, in the past, have included Stollery Children’s Hospital and Kids With Cancer Society.