People: Justin Acree, third-grader helping heart patients

April 05, 2004|EMILY BURTON

Seven years ago a Danville businessman died of a heart defect, leaving his 2-year-old grandson wondering why. Less than a decade after Gary Acree's death, third-grader Justin Acree has made it his mission to help other heart patients like his late grandpa. Through an annual school fund-raising campaign, Acree raised and donated, in his grandpa's and great-grandmother's memory, more than $400 in donations.

"It's kind of sad when people die of heart disease, and I don't want other people to feel that," said Acree, "So I raise money for them to buy equipment and a lot of other stuff."

Justin's father, Ken Acree, said his son helps collect for other fundraiser, but puts forth a huge effort for the school- sponsored American Heart Association fund raiser. "He's a good kid, but the AHA is the one he really goes for," said Ken Acree.

Family and friends have come to expect Justin's knock and sponsor sheet. Some have even asked him when the fundraiser will begin.


"The people at church, especially, because they knew Gary, and they want to help Justin," said his mother, Amy Acree.

"Justin is a very big-hearted kid. He just really cares about people," said Ken Acree.

His goal is to raise $50 more each year

This year's personal goal, said Justin, was to raise $50 more each year - a hard feat considering his track record of being top fund raiser four years running.

"My gym teacher always says it doesn't matter how much money you get, just raise money for the American Heart Association," explained Justin.

Last year, Justin's great-grandmother also died from heart disease, so this year's fund raiser will serve a double purpose. Justin's $440, some from his own pocket, will be donated in memory of his grandpa and great-grandmother.

"Justin has a very generous heart. He even gave some of his own birthday money this year," said Amy Acree.

Assistant principal Tim Godbey said he hoped other students internalize Acree's dedication to family and to a good cause.

"I hope with the success he's had this year, the students will see that and want to emulate it," said Godbey. "He's an excellent student and him doing that matches his character."

"It's good for us to go out and get money, and it makes you feel good to raise money for people with heart disease," said Justin.

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