A fourth-grader at Northwest Elementary School got creative with this year's school fundraiser -- using Facebook and pitting competitive aunts and uncles against each other, she raised more than $1,300 for the American Heart Association.
Piper Blizzard, 9, had been involved twice before in the annual Jump Rope for Heart event.
"Last year I only raised enough to get into the thing," she said of the $5 minimum for students to participate. "The year before that I raised $200."
The popular national fundraiser has been going on for over 35 years. Several schools in Wayne County take part every year, incorporating the lessons into health and physical education classes.
Mindy Glover Lane started her teaching career 11 years ago at the school, as a kindergarten teacher. This year is her first as physical education teacher there.
"In our class we have been talking about lungs and hearts and how to keep (them) strong and healthy,"she said.
Part of the lessons include jump rope skills, she said, integrating how children around the world jump rope and giving students opportunities to practice the skills.
"I love doing Jump Rope for Heart," Piper said. "We do stuff in gym class, twice a week. We watch videos and we jump rope. I like doing double bounce or I think it's called criss cross."
Her interest in the fundraising part was sparked by someone she knows in Ohio who has heart problems. Piper's parents, Steven and Laura Blizzard of Pikeville, have always supported their children's interests, she said, but with one stipulation.
"My mom and dad say that you can do the activities like this but you have to do them ourselves," she explained. "This is the only one I ever do every year."
Both her parents and grandmother agreed not to do the work for Piper, but were willing to help with referrals.
"She has a passion for this event. She's done it for three years," said Mrs. Blizzard. "We helped her in the sense that we pull up the names. But she does all the calls."
"I told people, I'm not asking for you to donate. I just want to know if it's OK to give the name to her," said Piper's grandmother, Cheri Carroll, who lives in Fuquay.
The effort quickly took off.
"My first goal was $100 and then it went to $300 and then it went to $500," said Piper, who started out contacting family members' co-workers and friends.
But then she took to social media.
"My mom helped me do this Facebook thing. She said that my aunts are really competitive against each other," Piper said. "I called one and she gave me $25. I went on Facebook and did a video on Facebook Live, challenging other aunts to match that and then one of my aunts, Aunt Pam, donated $50 and she got her company to match it so they donated $70."
Not to be outdone, her uncles got into a "bidding war," Mrs. Blizzard said with a laugh as she explained their rationale -- to see who could be "the favorite uncle."
The momentum quickly picked up, Piper said.
"I got up to $1,000 and I got excited," she said. "I ended up with $1,335."
Mrs. Lane was especially proud of Piper, who had also been one of her kindergarten students.
During the event, held recently at the school, a special award was presented to Piper for being the student who raised the most money this year.
The school also had a banner year at Jump Rope for Heart, said Cathy Rose, another p.e. teacher at the school.
"Northwest Elementary School has got donations of over $16,000," she said. "Our goal this year was $9,000 and we have exceeded that. We raised close to $8,000 online this year."