When six-year-old Jaxson Toweel signed up for the Heart Foundation’s Jump Rope for Heart program, his parents Kerri and Patrick had no idea it would lead him on an odyssey across Sydney.
Jump Rope for Heart is a skipping and fundraising program run in Australian schools throughout the year. It encourages kids to have a positive attitude towards exercise, healthy eating and heart health, while raising vital funds to fight heart disease.
Participants skip mainly at school and home, but with COVID-19 restricting many family outings, the Toweels decided to take Jaxson’s skipping on the road.
“We felt cooped up at home because of the pandemic and used Jaxson’s skipping as an excuse to get out of the house to different places around Sydney,” said Kerri, who has two other children and lives in Camden. “Together we came up with a ‘bucket list’ of places where Jaxson wanted to skip.”
Over the past few months, they have been gradually ticking off these locations. Jaxson has skipped across the Harbour Bridge; in front of the Opera House; at Brighton-Le-Sands Beach; through Luna Park; and in the Australian Botanical Garden at Mount Annan.
Being a football fan, ANZ Stadium was near the top of Jaxson’s list. “We would have been happy just to skip outside the stadium, but they were kind enough to let Jaxson in to skip the length of the actual footy field. He was absolutely thrilled!” Kerri said.
Jaxson has also skipped in some unusual places, such as through his local shopping centre; at police, fire and ambulance stations; and in the deserted QANTAS terminal at Sydney Airport. “People have been happy to give us permission when they hear that Jaxson is skipping to raise money for the Heart Foundation,” Kerri said.
During this time, Jaxson’s skipping has improved markedly. Kerri said he has gone from being able to skip only two or three jumps to powering along for significant distances without missing a beat.
Thanks to his incredible commitment to jumping rope, Jaxson is currently the third-highest individual Jump Rope fundraiser in Australia. He has skipped over 37 hours and raised more than $5300 for the Heart Foundation.
Jaxson goes to St Clare’s Catholic Primary School in Narellan Vale, which has been doing the Jump Rope program throughout term three. St Clare’s is currently the highest fundraising school in the country, raising almost $46,000 – well over its target of $10,000. Together, the St Clare’s students have skipped an impressive 599 hours.
“This is an amazing feat for any school, but even more so for St Clare’s, as 2020 is the very first year the school has participated in the Jump Rope program,” said the Heart Foundation’s Director of Active Living, Adjunct Professor Trevor Shilton.
“We thank Jaxson and his entire school community for supporting the program. As Jaxson and his fellow students have discovered, Jump Rope for Heart is lots of fun and great exercise, but it also helps the Heart Foundation in its important work funding lifesaving research and health projects.
“Heart Foundation-funded research has helped make big advances in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of heart disease over the past six decades, including genetic conditions.”
This year has posed some challenges for the Jump Rope for Heart program, with the coronavirus pandemic disrupting schools across the country, Professor Shilton said.
“In response, we have developed new ways to engage with teachers, kids and parents,” he said. “This includes some terrific online videos about skipping and heart health, as well as instructional videos on how to do neat tricks like the ‘Criss Cross’ and the ‘Awesome Annie’.”
Jump Rope for Heart is one of Australia’s favourite school physical activity programs, inspiring kids to embrace skipping as a fun way to get active.
Since the program’s inception in 1983, more than 10 million Australian kids and more than 90 per cent of Aussie schools have taken part in Jump Rope for Heart. In that time, schools have raised awareness and more than $104 million to help the Heart Foundation fight heart disease – Australia’s single leading cause of death.
Teachers who are interested in registering their school for Jump Rope for Heart can sign up here.