When Monterey Elementary School students were invited to participate in a fundraising effort to benefit the American Heart Association, they jumped right in.

Students raised $8,052 in Monterey's annual Jump Rope for Heart project.

"It's an amazing total. I'm so proud of our students," said Tina Radivojevic, Monterey physical education teacher.

"Monterey is such a caring school community," she said. "Our students are always so enthusiastic about Jump Rope for Heart."

Any student collecting at least one donation for the fundraising drive earned the right to participate in the Jump Rope for Heart celebration Feb. 23 in the school gym. During the celebration, students jumped rope and added their names to the 2018 Jump Rope for Heart banner or completed and signed drawings of hearts on coloring pages.

About 115 students from all grade levels earned a spot in the celebration, Radivojevic said.

The top fundraiser was kindergarten student Emelia Zeger, who raised $505. Emelia received an "I am a Heart Hero" medal after Radivojevic announced her grand total.

"I was really excited when my name was called," Emelia said. "I wanted to raise money for people who have heart issues. I think it's important."

Raising the money wasn't too difficult, she said.

"My cousin gave me $200 and other people gave me money," Emelia said.

"I got $50, and $70, and $50. It added up to $505."

The top fundraisers in other grades were Lucy Crowe, first grade, $180; Brandan Fleming, second grade, $270; Calum Williams, third grade, $250; and Tyler Haines, fourth grade, $215.

Fourth-grader Vincent Rivera said it made him feel good to take part in Jump Rope for Heart.

"I think it's great because you get to do something nice to help other people," he said. "Plus it's fun to get to jump rope.

"It's a blast," Vincent said, as he continued to move across the gym floor jumping rope.

Monterey holds its Jump Rope for Heart event during February, which is Heart Health Month, Radivojevic said.

The annual campaign to promote healthy-heart living connects to Valentine's Day, she said.

"During the fundraising time, we spent time during phys ed talking about heart health and how jumping rope is a good exercise that benefits your heart," Radivojevic said.