Detroit Lakes fifth grader is championing fundraiser for American Heart Association

An elementary student in Detroit Lakes is making a name for himself, using social media to become one of the top young fundraisers in west central Minnesota.

DETROIT LAKES, Minn. — At Rossman Elementary School Friday, Feb. 12, the students in Mr. Zunich's fifth-grade class not only celebrated Pajama Day, but also Valentines' Day with the student with the biggest heart sitting in the middle of class.

While only 11 years old, Jake Erickson has lived through multiple heart surgeries. Jake was born with several congenital defects. His most recent surgery was just months ago in Boston.

"It is quite a surgery," said Jake's mom, Amy Erickson. "They break your sternum and lift your heart out and operate on it."

"The hardest part was scare of not knowing what was going to happen," said Jake.

Despite all he has gone through, Jake has become well known to the American Heart Association as one of the country's top young fundraisers, raising $3,000 recently all on his own.


"I just want to help other kids so they don't have to have eight surgeries like me," Jake said.

Jake's parents say those life experiences of surgeries as an infant and then again as an 11-year-old make him the perfect face for fundraising.

In the last ten years, the American Heart Association and Children's Heart Foundation, have put $14 million toward pediatric heart defect research. With February being American Heart Month, Jake hopes his fundraising power sparks more research to help more people like him.

"His life was saved because of the kind of research the American Heart Association funds, and so anything we can do to help with that, we are in," Amy Erickson said.

Kevin Wallevand has been a Reporter at WDAY-TV since 1983. He is a native of Vining, Minnesota in Otter Tail County. His series and documentary work have brought him to Africa, Vietnam, Haiti, Kosovo, South America, Mongolia, Juarez,Mexico and the Middle East. He is an multiple Emmy and national Edward R. Murrow award recipient.

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