EDMOND — Ella Turner was a kindergartner three years ago when she started her mission to help children with bad hearts.
Her cause is dear to her heart because she does it in honor of her little sister, Colby, who died when she was 2.
Colby died of complications from a rare disease, geleophysic dysplasia, which affected her heart.
Ella, 8, is an ambassador for the American Heart Association.
When she was 5, she learned at her Texas school about Jump Rope for Heart, an American Heart Association program that raises money for heart disease. She had raised $16,500 by the time she moved to Edmond to start the spring semester at Centennial Elementary School.
Her biggest challenge yet — start at a new school and find 1,000 donors for this year's Jump Rope for Heart.
“My heart feels good when I do it because I feel like I'm doing something for other people,” said the red-haired girl with a big smile.
Ella learned about Jump Rope for Heart in her physical education class in Rockwall, Texas. She knew immediately that is what she wanted to do for Colby.
“I came running out of school,” Ella said. “I was so excited. I told my dad I wanted to raise $1,000. He told me I didn't understand how much $1,000 is.”
Ella told her dad he didn't understand how much it would help kids like Colby.
“I made a deal with him,” Ella said. “We would try our best and not get upset if I didn't make it.”
In less than 24 hours, with the help of Facebook, Ella had raised more than $1,000 and went on to collect $5,500 the first year. The next year, she raised $11,000.
Her new goal is more than four times the number of donors she had last year.
She hopes to get her 1,000 donors by Valentine's Day.
When Ella learned that her mother, Usha Turner, was taking a job in Oklahoma, her first question was whether her new school participated in Jump Rope for Heart.
Centennial Elementary started the program this year after Ella's physical education teacher from Texas called to suggest it would be a good activity.
“She has met and exceeded her goals,” said her father, Neil Turner. “It has been a positive experience for her.”
As an American Heart Association Heart Ambassador, Ella has met children with heart problems and speaks to adult groups about her quest to help children with heart disease.
Ella also stars in a video for the heart association.
“I am not sure she could help Colby's heart. I'm not sure that was possible,” Usha Turner said. “She is helping others.”
How to help
To donate, go to www.