QUINCY -- Ella Sprague had no idea when she was recognized during a school assembly she had raised more money through the American Heart Association's Jump Rope for Heart than any other student in the country.
A New Canton, Ill., resident, Ella, 10, knew at $13,644 she had raised more than anyone else in the school, and she had a pretty good shot at being top in the state. When her peers jumped to their feet in a standing ovation during the April 24 assembly, she was shocked.
"I don't do it for the attention," Ella said. "I just want to give back."
Born with a hypoplastic right heart, a rare condition in which the right side of the heart does not fully develop, Ella had two surgeries before she was two. Having survived the early ordeal, she now wants to help other children who may be facing similar circumstances.
"Ella is in a special situation, and she takes great pride in giving back," said Ella's father, Ted Sprague. "We're all extremely proud, and we feel it's important to teach children the significance of fundraising and giving back."
Ella almost singled-handedly doubled St. Peter School's goal of raising $7,500 through Jump Rope for Heart. The school brought in more than $20,000.
"My friends were really proud of me," Ella said. "There were a lot of hugs and being jumped on."
After Ella started a Jump Rope for Heart page online Feb. 10, it almost immediately went viral on Facebook. She raised $5,400 in two days and continued to average $2,000 for several days. On her page, she said, "I want to help other families because my family has been through a lot since I was born with a special heart."
Ella came in second in the nation three years ago as a third grader. She never thought she would take first.
"It was her personal goal," Ted Sprague said. "We didn't know if it was achievable though. Turns out it was."
When she gets older, Ella wants to become a cardiologist. Her father said she has always had that goal.
"I think I could help other people doing that," Ella said. "Everybody helped me. Everyone supported me. They came to see me. They loved me."
The school will receive $2,000, which Ella said will be used to purchase new P.E. equipment.
Ella said she plans to continue fundraising for Jump Rope for Heart in the coming years and hopes to raise at least $11,000 next year.