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Harrison Youth Football Receives AEDs Donation

Teams A Step Ahead of Cardiac Emergency

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By DIANNE ALWARD-BIERY

Cleaver Senior Staff Writer

HARRISON – A truly special donation to the Harrison Youth Football was received May 30 at Larson Elementary School. On that day, Johathan Smith of the Thomas Smith Memorial Foundation presented two Zoll AED 3 units [automatic external defibrillators] which were awarded through a grant as part of the foundation’s extraordinary and generous contribution to child-centered organizations.

It was explained that the Thomas Smith Memorial Foundation is a 501 (c)(3) public charity, whose purpose is to provide free heart screenings and to prevent sudden cardiac death in all children and young adults. It also was noted that the foundation is a completely volunteer organization with no paid staff, and that 100% of every donation to the foundation is used to save young lives.

Why cardiac concerns for the young? Sadly, this foundation was established in memory and honor of Thomas N. Smith, a Flushing High School senior who, at age 17, died of sudden cardiac death as a result of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.

Unfortunately, Thomas Smith was not alone. Data from the National Emergency Medical Services Information System in 2020 shows that, nationwide, EMS responded to 23,514 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests in children younger than 18 years of age. In addition to the AEDs, the organization also offers a Free Teen Heart Screenings program which includes a medical history review, a physical examination by a cardiologist, blood pressure check, an electrocardiogram/EKG/ECG, and an echocardiogram if needed. It was noted in the foundation’s literature that doctors do not typically prescribe tests on a child’s heart unless there are symptoms and, unfortunately, death is usually the first symptom.

On hand for the donation were some of the football players whose own well-being on the field may be affected by the ready availability of an AED. Roger Taylor, Harrison Youth Football president, explained that having two AEDs will mean that when one team is playing a home game while another is playing away, both will have an AED at the ready.

Harrison Youth Football fields three tackle teams, and they may not be playing at the same location every week. Now each of the tackle teams will have an AED with them on the sidelines. Taylor said the new AEDs will also be loaned out to other organizations who need them, such as Youth Soccer, Youth Cheer or Harrison Little League.

Others on hand were Cody Hammon, vice president; Liz Samples, secretary; Joe Heintz, husband of the game day coordinator; Jenna Zelkowski who wrote the grant; and teacher Daniel Seefeld who will be coaching grades 7-8.

As Taylor put it, “This is a great thing, and hopefully we’ll never have to use them.”

Smith learned that one of the adults present would be AED certified this summer, and urged others to become certified as well. He added that he always tells people, “Don’t be afraid of it, because you can’t get in trouble in Michigan for trying. We have the Good Samaritan law here in Michigan, which is very important; that means if you’re honestly trying to help, you can’t get in trouble for it.”

He described the units as Zolls top-of-the-line units, easy to use, and assured that the AEDs will not shock somebody unless they need it. Another important feature is the available QR code which will download a video to a phone which shows how to use the AED.

The units come in backpacks which include items essential in a first responder situation: rubber gloves, a breathing mask, as well as a razor to quickly shave away chest hair if necessary – because an AED will not function through hair.

“Once you watch the video, you’ll realize that it’s not near as hard as it seems,” Smith said. “And the units are kind of dumb-proof. They’re brand new and everything’s ready to go.”

Smith said that football fields always have been an important part of his life, and his wish for the young athletes in attendance is for them to be safe.

“We’re actually going through one school program right now where every player on the team is getting certified,” Smith said. Then directing his attention to the younger players present, said, “But you guys are the perfect age, because you’ll be spreading the word and teaching kids for years to come about this. And I’m excited for you.”

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