Cody is skipping in memory of his baby brother, Sam
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Cody is skipping in memory of his baby brother, Sam

Media Release - 3 August 2020

When 10-year-old Cody Byrne heard that his school was taking part in the Heart Foundation’s Jump Rope for Heart program this year, he was especially keen to sign up and raise money to fight heart disease.

That’s because Cody lost his baby brother, Sam, to a heart condition he’d had since birth. “Heart disease hurts people at all ages,” Cody wrote on his Jump Rope registration page. “Skipping makes your heart strong and I feel by skipping I will make my little brother proud.”

Sam was the fifth child of Matthew and Paula Byrne, of the northern Brisbane suburb of Warner. Doctors discovered Sam's condition, atrioventricular septal defect (AVSD), during a scan when Paula was around 20 weeks’ pregnant.

In AVSD, there are holes between the chambers of the right and left sides of the heart, and the valves that control the flow of blood between these chambers may not be formed correctly.

The treatment for AVSD is an operation, which Sam had at the age of six months. While many children respond well to surgery, Sam had a number of complications. He passed away after four months in the intensive care unit.

Sam’s parents and siblings take every opportunity to keep his memory alive, so Cody was very motivated to register for Jump Rope at his school, Prince of Peace Lutheran College in Everton Park. He uses the hash tag: #skipping4sam.

Inspired by Cody, his younger brother, Jesse, also joined the program. After only a few weeks, the boys have already raised more than $700 for the Heart Foundation.

Said Paula: “Sam was such a shining little light. His loss has left a big hole in our family and these kids have had to learn tough life lessons at a very young age. But they just keep right on loving him and proudly telling the world about their baby brother. They are very special kids who genuinely want to help others, because they know what can happen.”

Heart Foundation CEO Queensland, Stephen Vines, thanked Cody, Jesse and all other Jump Rope participants across the country for their terrific fundraising efforts.

“Each year, more than 300,000 Aussie school kids participate in Jump Rope for Heart. It is lots of fun and great exercise, but the program also helps the Heart Foundation in its important work funding lifesaving research and health projects,” Mr Vines said.

This year has posed some challenges for the Jump Rope for Heart program, with the COVID-19 pandemic disrupting schools, Mr Vines added.

“In response, we have developed new ways to engage with teachers, kids and parents,” he said. “This includes some terrific online videos about skipping and heart health, as well as instructional videos on how to do neat tricks like the ‘Criss Cross’ and the ‘Awesome Annie’.”

Prince of Peace Lutheran College’s Head of Junior Campus, Katrina Valencia, said: “The Byrne family is a special part of our college community. It has been our privilege to support this family through what was and continues to be a very difficult time. Sam’s siblings have always been a dedicated and passionate group of young people, committed to serving his memory well.

“Several families within our college community have beautiful heart kids in them. We have been touched by their stories, and feel honoured to be able to support them, encourage awareness and fund-raise for this important cause. Keep skipping, Cody, and know that your whole college community is skipping with you!”

Jump Rope for Heart is one of Australia’s favourite school activity programs, inspiring kids to embrace skipping as a fun way to get active. 

Since the program’s inception in 1983, more than 10 million Australian kids and more than 90 per cent of Aussie schools have taken part in Jump Rope for Heart. 

In that time, schools have raised awareness and more than $104 million to help the Heart Foundation fight heart disease – Australia’s single leading cause of death.

Teachers who are interested can register their school for Jump Rope for Heart now.

Media enquiries

Siobhan McMahon, Media Manager, Physical Activity
M: 0478 313 656 E: Siobhan.mcmahon@heartfoundation.org.au

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