MacKenzie MacMahan, Ruth Doyle Intermediate School student, raised a praiseworthy amount of money for the American Heart Association by harnessing a personal tragedy.

MacMahan, 11, raised more than $500 in honor of her late father, Monty MacMahan, during the association’s Jump Rope for Heart event.

Mr. MacMahan suffered a fatal heart attack in December 2010 while he and his daughter were duck hunting in the Perryville area in neighboring Perry County.

The donation from MacMahan, who just completed the fifth grade, was the largest in the history of the association event at the school, according to Sarah-Catherine Orahood, physical education teacher and coordinator of the yearly donation drive.

"It’s a story of love, faith and commitment to her father," Orahood said. "She told me that she wanted to raise money in honor of her dad, and she didn’t want any of the prizes for raising money. She wanted all of it to go to the American Heart Association."

Mr. MacMahan, also known as "Coach Mac," was a teacher in the Pulaski County Special School District before his death at age 51.

The hunting trip with his youngest of two daughters was the day after Christmas. Doreen MacMahan said her husband called to tell her that he couldn’t catch his breath.

"They were in the water and in the process of walking through the mud and muck when he started not feeling well," Mrs. MacMahan said.

She described the event through accounts from her daughter and late husband.

"I think the love they had for each other made him able to stay coherent and together enough to get [MacKenzie MacMahan] back to safety," Mrs. MacMahan said. "She was there for him and she gave him the strength to get her back to safety.

"I kept calling him back and checking on him every few minutes. My daughter said he was getting her and the boat back to shore."

Mr. MacMahan died two days later at Conway Regional Medical Center.

"MacKenzie is such a good student," Orahood said. "I’d never know she experienced losing her father and being with him when all of this happened. I didn’t even know about her father until she told me she wanted to raise money in memory of him."

Mrs. MacMahan said her daughter is a "special girl," who requested on her last birthday that donations be made to Arkansas Children’s Hospital in lieu of gifts.

MacKenzie MacMahan said she took on the donation drive in her father’s honor because "I don’t want anyone else to have to suffer through that."

The school raised $3,500 during this year’s heart event.

(Staff writer Courtney Spradlin can be reached by email at courtney.spradlin@thecabin.net or by phone at 505-1236. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)