EARLY — A very special guest helped Early Primary School and Early Elementary School students kick off their Jump Rope for Heart campaign in a raucous assembly in the primary school’s gym Friday afternoon.

Josh Hill, an 8-year-old third grader, had surgery late last year to close up a hole in his heart. Josh is the son of Amber Corley and the grandson of Brownwood Police Chief Mike Corley and his wife, Sheryl. Josh was also accompanied at the assembly by his 10-year-old brother, John.

This year’s Jump Rope for Heart campaign is dedicated to Josh.

Students were given plenty of chances to make lots of noise as they interacted with Early coach Meldina Mitchell, a representative of the American Heart Association and the Brownwood police chief, who was a natural in front of the crowd.

Jump Rope for Heart gives students a chance to raise money for the American Heart Association to join the fights against heart disease and stroke, the nation’s Number 1 and Number 3 killers.

Students will receive collection envelopes Monday and they can also raise funds online. Students will turn in their money during a jump-roping celebration on Feb. 20.

Friday afternoon, Mitchell called Josh over to her side as she talked into a microphone. Josh was, at first, too shy to say anything.

Amber Corley told of taking her son to an Austin cardiologist after a doctor said he heart didn’t sound right. The cardiologist determined that a hole that normally closes had not closed. “They said ‘we’ll, we’re going to have to fix it,’” Corley recalled.

Doctors put a disc in the hole, and Josh’s heart has closed over the disc, Corley said. “Now Josh can run longer and be more active than he ever knew that he was missing out on,” Corley said.

“Now he doesn’t have any restrictions and he can do anything any other kid could do. By you guys doing Jump Rope for Heart, that raises money to do research for heart.”

Corley said her son was in the hospital for just two days. “Josh had a really easy time, and that’s because the medicine has become so, almost, magic, because they’ve done so much research,” Corley said. “So thanks to all the research they’ve done, Josh had an easy time. So I hope you guys raise a lot of money to make things easier for heart surgery.”

As Mike Corey took a turn at the microphone, he called his grandson to his side, and this time he was able to speak. “Thank you!” he called out into the microphone. “Please help raise money for other people like me.”