Nine-year-old Alexander Reese and his 8-year-old sister Anastasia Kenny have wanted to join their classmates in school fundraisers, but they just haven’t been able to help lately.

It’s proven too difficult during a tough time for the Greenville, S.C., family, which has been living in a transitional apartment for homeless families for the past five months following their move from New York in search of a better life.

However, when the kids learned about Jump Rope For Heart, they were thrilled about the opportunity to raise money to fund research and education about heart disease, the No. 1 killer of all Americans.

“Even though they don’t have much due to our situation, they really wanted to do something that helped others,” said their mom, Vanessa Kenny, who spends her days caring for her 3-year-old daughter with special needs while her husband works. “They were just excited they could participate because all their classmates were doing it too.”

In addition to helping others, Alex and Anastasia were plenty excited about the possibility of winning prizes by getting people to sponsor them as they jump rope. The most exciting prize they had their eye on: a pair of scooters that could be won by each collecting $1,000.

So for a few weeks Alex and Anastasia left the apartment at the Miracle Hill Rescue Mission to solicit donations in downtown Greenville, with their mother supervising nearby with 3-year-old Catherine in tow.

The kids spread the word after school and on weekends, using a poster board they made to tell sponsors about Jump Rope For Heart. As they answered donors’ questions , they became more invested in the mission of Jump Rope For Heart and the American Heart Association.

“They hadn’t realized that they had people in their family who struggled with heart disease and other heart conditions,” Vanessa said. “Once they realized that money helped their family directly, they pushed themselves even harder.”

In the end, they raised about $1,000, much of it coming in $1 donations. They decided to pool their donations and won a scooter that they would share.

Coach Kyle Steading, the physical education teacher at A.J. Whittenberg Elementary School who organized the Jump Rope For Heart event, said the combined effort Alex and Anastasia constituted the biggest fundraising effort among students.

“It wasn’t even close,” he said. “The next closest kid raised around $150.”

Steading said he was touched by their selfless effort and impressed by their determination.

“These students, in third and fourth grade, took the time and responsibility to set a goal and go out and achieve it,” he said. “They gave up their weekends to go out and help other people and not many people their age really have that mindset.”

Moved by the siblings’ story, American Heart Association officials in Greenville decided Alex and Anastasia had earned not just one scooter, but two.

Vanessa said she couldn’t be prouder of her kids

“It was great to see them excited about reaching a goal and talking to people about the fundraiser,” Vanessa said. “It gave us a chance to get out of the house and work on something together.”

Jump Rope For Heart is an in-school fundraiser sponsored by the American Heart Association and the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance. The event is held at more than 36,000 schools nationwide.

On Saturday, April 5, Alex and Anastasia were taking their fight against heart disease a step further.

Both were taking part in their local Heart Walk to raise money for continuing education and research into heart disease and stroke.

Photo courtesy of Vanessa Kenny.