Colby is coming!

Staff Writer
Echo Pilot
Colby Elliott is an honorary G-A Blue Devil, made possible with a present from the primary school. He also received a handful of Christmas cards. Colby will travel from Texas to Pennsylvania to meet students who participated in Jump Rope for Heart.

A celebrity will visit Greencastle-Antrim Primary School next week. Colby Elliott, 10, from Texas, is a popular boy with the students, who have been in touch with him for several years. He doesn’t sing or dunk baskets, but he is personable, and a charming spokesman for the American Heart Association.

G-APS students are longtime participants in Jump Rope for Heart. Last spring the youngsters raised the most money of any primary school in Pennsylvania, at $28,644. That was also the fifth highest amount out of all the 827 participating schools in the state.

Primary wellness teacher Trish Schriver, JRFH coordinator, introduced the students to Colby four years ago. He was featured in an AHA video.

“They fell in love with him,” she said.

Colby’s story resonated with them, as they were able to put a face to the people helped by their fundraising efforts. The money went to heart and stroke research, and community and educational programs. The jumping also introduced the participants to the value of physical fitness for heart health, and that volunteering was fun.

Colby was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, the rare condition is congenital, and the left side of the heart does not fully develop. Untreated, it is fatal. It is also more common in males.

Schriver, with assistance from the American Heart Association, made contact with the Elliott family. She then facilitated correspondence with Colby, to the delight of the local students. They sent cards and gifts to him, and a couple classrooms talked to him and his mother Sheila Elliott over Skype.

Children would ask Schriver about Colby after summer vacations, and had hoped he would be able to attend last year’s awards ceremony. They didn’t realize how far away he lived, she said at the time.

And then suddenly, he was coming.

Colby’s story

When Colby, a fraternal twin to Ethan, was born, his parents and medical team were aware of his condition. His first open heart surgery was at six days of age. He has had five operations, and will require a heart transplant when he is older.

He became a young voice for the heart association, which was somewhat of a surprise to his mom. She and Colby spoke with the Echo Pilot by phone last week.

“It’s quite funny,” Elliott said. “We were asked to do a video to tell his story. We went to a studio and he was treated like a movie star. It was very casual.”

A few weeks later they saw the final result, a film to be sent to 40,000 schools.

“Oh my gosh, that’s what it was for?” Elliott remembered thinking. “I would have done my hair!”

The video opened the door to speaking engagements, and introduced Colby to the students in Greencastle. He was featured in another video last summer, available on You Tube under Jump Rope for Heart 2013-14.

Elliott appreciates the impact the videos make.

“Children see money being raised and where it goes. We are always open to talking to anyone, to raise awareness. It’s hard, because half the babies with this defect don’t make it.”

Colby is healthy and energetic these days. He loves to draw Mario, paint, play video games, and be outdoors with his friends and brothers, including Dillon, 13. He is in fifth-grade and admits he enjoys school more as a social outlet than for learning, but he does well academically. He wants to be an artist when he grows up.

The visit

Colby and Elliott will be at the primary school next Wednesday to celebrate the achievements of the students in the 2014 Jump Rope for Heart. The whole family had intended to drive out, but Elliott’s husband Jason had a work conflict, so just the two will fly.

“This is something we wanted to do,” said Elliott. “Colby’s life is so special, I love sharing it. And I wanted to meet this teacher in Greencastle, Pennsylvania.”

Schriver expects to get emotional that day. She arranged for Colby to also have a pizza lunch and do a craft at Tayamentasachta with the winning fundraising class, and to visit the elementary school. Several AHA representatives will also attend the program.

Colby is ready. “I always want to experience new schools.”

And he has been curious about Greencastle for quite some time.

Schriver is impressed that the duo made the decision to come to town at their own expense. The Hampton Inn in Chambersburg is providing two nights free lodging. After learning of the purpose of their visit, sales director Barb Motichka was happy to offer  the room.

“We care. We are a family-type hotel,” she said. “We wanted to help.”

Motichka kept the momentum going. She contacted The Orchards Restaurant, which will be hosting the mother and son for a dinner.

Schriver sees a long-lasting outcome to the primary school visit.

“This is a lifelong experience for the kids and for Colby, too. They will remember it forever. You can’t teach this kind of compassion and caring and loving.”