Motivated first grader helps save hearts

The last couple of months, New England grade school students have participated in the American Heart Association Jump Rope for Heart, a fundraiser that focuses on raising money to help save the lives of children and adults that have serious heart conditions.

Taylor Sonsalla raised $600 to fight heart disease. The first grader hopes to go into the medical field when she grows up. (Photo by Rachel Bock/For The Herald)

By RACHEL BOCK
For The Herald

The last couple of months, New England grade school students have participated in the American Heart Association Jump Rope for Heart, a fundraiser that focuses on raising money to help save the lives of children and adults that have serious heart conditions. After New England first grader Taylor Sonsalla heard that last year the students at New England School raised enough money to save 75 hearts, she came home and told her mom Alecia that she wanted to do her part and she wanted to save as many hearts as she could during this year’s fundraiser.

The Jump Rope for Heart fundraiser works with kids to understand the importance of the American Heart Association and how important it is to help people of all ages with various heart conditions. While raising money, kids are awarded with different prizes for each money level that they raise, with the highest being the eighth level of raising over $1,000.

For most kids, the prizes are what keeps them motivated to raise the money, but not for Taylor, she simply wanted to save hearts. Even though Taylor’s family has a history of heart disease, as both her great grandpas have been affected by heart ailments, for the first grader, she also has another driving force—she wants to be a doctor when she grows up.

Alecia said that even though her daughter is young, she loves everything that has to do with the medical field. She said when she was younger, Taylor would dress up in her Doc McStuffins costumes to go to the clinic and even the doctors would play along and let her play with their stethoscopes while she would be at the clinic. Taylor also loves to look at her discovery kids medical books, and whenever there is a medical commercial on T.V. she will stop what she is doing to watch. She is constantly playing doctor at home and performs various surgeries on her stuffed animals. She also makes her little sister Rylee play along, usually making her be a nurse, assistant, or at times the patient.

“I hope someday she will be in the medical field. I always tell her the sky is the limit. We tell her we never care what she wants to do as long as it makes her happy. But if this is something she chooses to do, she will have to work hard but she will make a difference in the world,” Alecia Sonsalla said.

So with all of that driving her fundraising goals, young Taylor set out to save hearts, and that’s exactly what she did.  When Taylor first brought home the information, she wanted to reach the highest level of $1,000 and came up with a clever plan, simply ask her grandpas first to help out.

“When she first got the packet she was reading and she is quite smart, she saw it was $1,000 to get all the levels and she asked both her grandpas, well, if you each would give me $500 I would be done,” Alecia said.

The first grader went straight to work and she set up an online campaign through the American Heart Association, made phone calls, texted, and spoke with friends and family in person to help with raising money for The American Heart Association. Her mom would help with all the technical things like setting up the online campaign, texting, and dialing the phone, but for who to ask for donations was all Taylor. Every day they would check her fundraising progress online, and her initial goal that she originally set had to be changed as she kept raising more money.

Taylor worked hard and raised over $600 dollars for the American Heart Association. She received several prizes for each level that she achieved on the fundraising chart, a medal, and a certificate for being the school’s top fundraiser. Even though Taylor had her mind set on raising $1,000, that is the goal that she has set for next year, and is very excited to do it all over again.

“I think she is a typical kid so the prizes were a good motivation, but with her wanting to be in the medical field when she grows up I think that is why she had the drive to do it, because she has the passion to do it. She actually said I wish I had two more weeks, I know I could of made the $1,000.00,” Alecia said.

Not only did the children who raised money receive prizes, but the Physical Education Department at New England School will receive $200 in gift cards from the American Heart Association to be used to purchase new P.E. equipment.

Taylor thinks that it is cool that she helped raise money for some new P.E. equipment for her school. But the true reason she worked so hard was simply to save hearts, and she hopes that her hard work was able to save over 40 hearts.

“I wanted to save a lot of hearts,” Sonsalla said. “So people will stay alive.”

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