When Eugene Field Elementary School wrapped up its annual Jump Rope for Heart fundraiser for the American Heart Association a few weeks ago, it was no surprise that fourth-grader Zachary Tobin led the pack.
For the second year in a row the 9-year-old Maryville boy, the son of Jason and Emily Tobin, raised more than $1,000 toward research and awareness in the battle against stroke and heart disease.
What wasn't apparent until physical education teacher Joe Masciovecchio went through the books, however, was that Zachary raised his money the hard way — literally a few bucks or handfuls of loose change at a time.
"You would think there would be some big donations in there," Masciovecchio said, thumbing through the little pocket notebook in which Zachary recorded his largely door-to-door donations. "But there's not. A few people gave $20 or $50, but mostly it's just $5 at a time."
Zachary said he spent about a week both this year and last knocking on doors in his neighborhood and then visiting apartment complexes around Maryville on the theory that high population density equals more frequent, if small, returns.
And sure enough, that's the way it worked out. Altogether, 192 people responded to Zachary's request for Heart Association donations this year, giving a total of $1010.24. That comes to an average of $5.26 cents each.
Zachary and his classmates raised a total of $8,200 during Jump Rope for Heart this year, with $845 of that coming from donations to a special website. Some of those gifts were made by people living outside the United States
In recognition of his students' Jump Rope for Heart efforts, Masciovecchio recently donned a purple dress and clashing leopard-spot scarf, while Zachary, as the top money-raiser, will soon get to serve as gym teacher for a day.
The youngsters' success on behalf of the Heart Association also means that Eugene Field will receive a $200 gift certificate from US Games, a company Masciovecchio described as an "Amazon.com for P.E. teachers."
This year the certificate will be used to replenish the school's supply of outdoor playground gear, including basketballs, kickballs, jump ropes and hula hoops.