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Pupils' rope-jumping benefits heart fund

Melissa Perry raised $76 for the American Heart Association on Wednesday just by jumping rope. It was not playtime in the schoolyard but part of a rope-jumping marathon at the 8-year-old third-grader's school on Valentine's Day.

Pupils at Mango Elementary School raised $2,200 with their jump roping project. Melissa raised the most money - in part because her mother solicited donations from work.

"Twenty-six schools in Hillsborough County are doing this," said Debbie Rodriguez, coordinator of the event and physical education teacher at the school. "Not all are jumping today, (Feb. 14) because they have until June to complete it. We thought it would be nice to do it on Valentine's Day."

On the school playground Wednesday under a warm sun, groups of classes were taking turns jumping rope while music kept up the tempo.

A volunteer mother, Kaye Tate, watched a clock and blew a whistle every minute to let the children know when they needed to stop and start.

The children jumped rope for one out of every six minutes during the 90-minute marathon.

The children would rest on mats between jumps. Some just jumped, but others added special moves.

"We've been practicing this for three weeks leading up to this event," Rodriguez said. "They learned the 18 different skills in jumping rope."

Melissa said she was not tired at the end of the marathon.

Two hundred of the 800 pupils participated in the project. For their efforts they received jump ropes, cups and T-shirts, depending on how much they raised.

Melissa, the top moneymaker, got one of each and a stop watch.