A big heart for research

ZARA Smith, 11, has become the top fundraiser in the history of Jump Rope for Heart.

The campaign run in schools across Australia raises awareness about physical health and encourages students to collect money for the Heart Foundation to support research into heart disease and stroke. 

Earlier this week Zara had reached $9,300 and was confident she would get to $10,000 - the most money ever raised by a Jump Rope for Heart participant.

She's been hard at work gathering donations for 10 weeks, including 12 days during her school holidays when she went to Heathcote, Echuca, Moama, Rochester and Bendigo to widen her collection pool.

Zara's motivation to make such a large contribution for research comes from a personal connection to heart illness.

Her father, Jeff, had a heart attack two years ago and her mother, Rachel, has a continuing heart murmur. Zara said her desire to raise funds grew after her father's health scare.

"Because Dad had a heart attack, it means a lot more than before," she said. 

Mr Smith said he was the guardian of the money Zara raised. 

For a long time, he kept the total amount raised a secret.

"I was whinged and whinged at to count it," he said. 

Ms Smith said she was "very proud" of her daughter's achievement. 

"We could not believe how much money was actually raised," she said.

Zara took part in Jump Rope for Heart two years ago and collected more than $3000.

Heart Foundation of Victoria chief executive Diana Heggie said Zara and her family had gone above and beyond in their efforts.

“Not only is Zara looking after her own heart by skipping and being active, she is also looking after the hearts of all Australians by raising funds to help the Heart Foundation continue its lifesaving work,” Ms Heggie said.

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