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IN A HEARTBEAT: For Papale, a milestone with extra meaning

IN A HEARTBEAT: For Papale, a milestone with extra meaning

reporter photo

WALLINGFORD — Nearly four years ago, Wallingford’s Mike Papale founded “In A Heartbeat,” a non-profit organization dedicated to preventing death from sudden cardiac arrest and hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.

Papale and the organization’s board has lived up to that mission by raising money to equip buildings with AED defibrillators, the device that saved Papale’s life about a decade ago when he went into cardiac arrest.

On Thursday, Papale’s foundation will donate its 100th AED at Southern Connecticut State University. The donation will be made in honor of another former Sheehan star, the renowned college basketball coach Cathy Inglese, who passed away in July after sufferng a traumatic brain injury in a fall.

“At our last board meeting we wanted to do something special for our 100th donated AED,” Papale said Wednesday. “It was right around the time when Cathy passed away and she was great to me as a young basketball coach. She stayed in touch with me.

“This was something the board wanted to do for her and her family.”

Papale reached out to the Inglese family and asked where they would wanted the AED in her honor. SCSU was the consensus.

Inglese, after becoming the first 1,000-point scorer in Sheehan girls basketball history and leading the Titans to the 1976 state title, went on to play at the SCSU. Her 40-point game against UMass on Feb. 20, 1980 still stands as that program’s single-game record.

In her four seasons at Southern, Inglese led the Owls to three national postseason tournaments. She had 1,194 career points.

Then she went into coaching. Inglese’s checkered career included stints at the University of Vermont, Boston College and the University of Rhode Island. Under her watch, BC won the Big East Conference crown in 2004 after defeating UConn in the semifinals.

Inglese is a member of multiple Halls of Fame: Sheehan, the University of Vermont, the Connecticut Basketball Hall of Fame, the Massachusetts Chapter of the Italian-American Sports Hall of Fame and the New Agenda Northeast Hall of Fame for “advancing the role of women in sports.”

Members of the In a Heartbeat foundation and Inglese’s family will be at Southern on Thursday for the presentation. It starts at 6 p.m.

“We are excited about it,” Papale said. “The organization has really grown. We’ve been able to raise a lot of money to support more people.”

In A Heartbeat donated six AEDs in its first year in 2016. Another 23 followed in 2017 and then 31 in 2018.

The number has ballooned to the century mark in 2019 and Papale anticipates handing out 40 more AEDs before the end of the year.

“We are continuing to try to expand our reach and help more people,” Papale said. “At some point, we want to fund free heartscreenings for kids to detect heart disease at an early age. We are really trying to do more.”

This year, In A Heartbeat will cut a check of $12,000 for research of heart disease. Combining the AEDs with monetary donations, Papale estimates the organization will have donated about $140,000 total in its four years.

Papale is a 2007 Sheehan grad. He was inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame this year. He coaches the Fairfield Prep varsity boys basketball team.