Things were really hopping at Springville Middle School last week.

Of the school's 720 students, 301 joined in a recent 90-minute "Jump Rope for Heart" to raise money for the American Heart Foundation."It's fun, it's good exercise and it raises money for a good cause," said Linda Lewis, physical education teacher and organizer of the school event.

She said students were organized into groups of six and solicited pledges for each minute that two members of the group would jump rope.

The Jump Rope for Heart program started about 11 years ago, said Don Hooper, the Utah County field representative for the American Heart Association.

"A teacher in Milwaukee wanted to get kids excited about physical fitness and thought using jump ropes would make it more interesting," he said. "The kids loved it, and the second year, she realized it could be even more meaningful if the effort could benefit a charity.

"The American Heart Foundation was a natural choice. Besides the research we sponsor, our main goal is to stress the importance of exercise and good nutrition for a quality life."

Hooper said Utah schools have participated for about nine years.

"Utah will have about 70 schools involved this year, and they will raise about $120,000. That is about a fifth of the money we raise in a year. Springville is one of our most consistent contributors; they raise about double the amount of the average school."

He said 75 percent of the money is slated to stay in state, but many years Utah keeps more.

"We have so much heart research in the state, much of the national money returns as grants," he said.

But the 11-, 12- and 13-year-olds in Springville didn't seem to care much about accounting. They wanted to have fun.

"It's like a big beach party," Lewis said. "They bring ghetto-blasters and snacks. Some even order pizza. But they do have to make up schoolwork they miss, so I don't think they do it to skip school."

Brandy Livingston, 13, had the most pledges, 74.

"If I can collect them all, it will add up to about $280," she said. Her enterprise will win her a scooter. Prizes for lesser amounts collected include cameras, radios and sunglasses.

Livingston started to say she signed up to jump for the fun of it, but someone put ice down her back and she ran off.

Amy Hargrove, 12, said she wanted to help raise money for research.

Amy Leach, 13, wanted to raise enough money to help buy people new hearts.

Alas, the altruism ends there. One girl said she wanted to skip health and English, another wanted to get out of math, and four others specifically mentioned a Utah studies class. All asked their names be withheld for their own protection.

But the students did seem to enjoy the exercise, which gladdened Lewis.

"The kids love to get out and move around, and everyone wants to win a jump rope. And we have raised about $30,000 for the Heart Foundation over the eight years we have participated. This year we hope to raise between $5,000 and $8,000.

"Organizing this many kids is an awful lot of work, but heart bypass operations added an extra seven years to my father's life. If we can help give anyone else more time, it is all worth it," she said.