Each year, more than 300,000 Aussie school kids take part in the Heart Foundation’s Jump Rope for Heart program. Every one of them is special – but nine-year-old Xavier Simpson is more inspiring than most.
Xavier was born with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS), a rare inherited condition that affects the body’s connective tissues, which are responsible for supporting and structuring the skin, blood vessels, bones and organs.
Some people with EDS also have heart defects, and this is the case with Xavier. His aortic valve does not properly control the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the rest of his body. This means Xavier is prone to fatigue and breathlessness.
When he is older, Xavier may need surgery to repair the valve. “In the meantime, he is being monitored closely by his doctors. Despite his health challenges, he is a very positive and determined little boy,” said his mum, Alicia.
“He is particularly motivated and excited by Jump Rope for Heart, which he sees as ‘his thing’ because he has a heart condition.”
Xavier first participated in the program in 2019. That year, he was the highest individual fundraiser at his school, Bannockburn P-12 College, raising $700 for the Heart Foundation. This year, Xavier has well exceeded that amount, so far raising $1584 and skipping a total of almost six hours.
Xavier’s younger brother, six-year-old Harrison, is also taking part this year, along with other students at the college. In total, they have skipped an impressive 136 hours and raised $8840. This not only exceeded their $8000 target, but is the highest amount ever raised by the school in Jump Rope for Heart.
Both Alicia and Xavier’s dad, Brenton, skipped in the Jump Rope program when they were in primary school.
“I never imagined that I’d have such a personal connection to the program all these years later,” Alicia said. “It’s amazing that something I did as a child, and that so many other Australian kids have done, is funding research that could help my own son.”
Heart Foundation Director of Active Living, Adjunct Professor Trevor Shilton, thanked Xavier and all Jump Rope participants across Australia.
“As these kids 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.
“In response to the coronavirus pandemic, we have developed new ways to engage with teachers, kids and parents. 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 primary schools have taken part in Jump Rope for Heart. In that time, schools have raised awareness and more than $106 million to help the Heart Foundation fight heart disease – Australia’s single leading cause of death.