When Dawson Nemeth, 7, started kindergarten at Cordova Bay elementary last year she was unaware of what lay ahead. It wasn’t until Nemeth reached Grade 1 this year when she connected with Haleigh Miklic, 10, a Grade 5 student who shares a commonality: both survived open-heart surgery as infants to close a ventricular septal defect.
And now Nemeth is ready to carry the torch as a “heart hero,” following in Miklic’s footsteps as a champion of Cordova Bay’s successful Jump Rope for Heart fundraising campaign. Miklic has been at the forefront of the program since she was in kindergarten, helping to raise $10,000 towards the Heart and Stroke Foundation campaign. She’s also been recognized by the Heart and Stroke Foundation as the province’s top fundraiser. The two have a website at heartsisters.ca/donate and Miklic’s original at haleighjumpsropeforheart.com.
“I’m excited (to keep doing it next year at Royal Oak middle school),” said Miklic, who, with her family, has also pledged to support Nemeth and Cordova Bay school in the coming years.
“We try to live healthy lives and to promote it for others,” said Nemeth’s mom Brenda.
Dawson endured open-heart surgery as a four week old. A wire from that surgery remains in her ribs to this day.
The surgery was mostly effective though she still has a ‘leak,’ which is closely monitored. It’s nothing that will stop Dawson from keeping up with identical twin sister McKenna, who is free of any conditions.
That Dawson and Miklic continue to fundraise into the final week of school is a testament to their dedication as the annual Jump Rope for Heart event happens in February.
“We just keep going,” said Miklic, who was just six weeks old when she underwent surgery and is now doing well.
Monitoring is annual and doctors are ready to scale it back to every second year. While Miklic is heavily involved in a variety of sports – she was part of the Saanich Minor Hockey Association’s inaugural girls atom team (9-10) this past season – she takes jump rope seriously.
“I have eight skipping ropes at home, I do enjoy it,” said Miklic, who prefers to skip in a solo fashion.
Dawson’s serious about it too: she has accumulated four skipping ropes thus far but enjoys jumping over the rope while two others swing it for her.