WALLINGFORD — A local charity and elementary school are teaming up to donate a life-saving automated external defibrillator to the Spanish Community of Wallingford.
Students at Parker Farms School will participate in a walkathon on Wednesday at the school. Principal Christina Sagnella and school nurse Lauren Young reached out last spring to Wallingford native Michael Papale, president of In A Heartbeat Foundation, about donating an automated external defibrillator, or AED, to a local organization.
The group decided on a student walkathon. The AED will be presented to SCOW on the day of the walk.
“SCOW did graciously accept, and shared they had a need,” Sagnella said. “Many of our students go there, so that was cool for us.”
Students had the opportunity to gather pledges from family members and friends. They have until the day of the walk to turn in money, so an estimate of the amount to be raised wasn’t available.
The event serves two purposes: place a life-saving device with a local organization and teach kids about community.
“I see a need for AEDs throughout the community,” Young said, “and it’s an opportunity for the kids to learn how to help their own community out.”
All Parker Farms fifth-graders receive CPR training from school district nursing staff.
“They know that this is happening,” Sagnella said, “and they are excited about it, really any time there’s an opportunity to get outside.”
The walkathon was announced at a school assembly earlier this month. All 275 students, in the third through fifth grades, are participating.
Papale spoke to students at a recent school assembly about the foundation, the device and why AEDs are important.
“On that day, students will see the impact they made,” he said. “There’s a lot of causes out there, and they’re all really important. This is also about raising awareness of AEDs, of heart disease, and of young athletes and sudden cardiac arrest.”
Papale, a Sheehan High School graduate and former basketball player, suffered a sudden cardiac arrest in 2006 at age 17. There was no AED available, but an EMT happened to be working nearby and performed CPR for eight minutes, saving his life.
After a long recovery, he coached basketball at Quinnipiac University and Southern Connecticut State University. In 2015, he founded In A Heartbeat to donate AEDs to schools, businesses and families in need.
Now age 28, he has made In A Heartbeat his life’s work, leaving coaching at the end of last school year to work on the foundation and his motivational speaking career.
In A Heartbeat has donated 18 AEDs so far. In Wallingford, the foundation has placed AEDs in the police department, Ulbrich Boys & Girls Club and CrossFit Wallingford. They’ve also placed the device in many towns across the state and in Rhode Island, New York and New Jersey.
On Monday, Papale was in Los Angeles donating the first AED from the foundation in California.
“We try to focus on local communities,” he said, “but when people reach out, we’re happy to donate them.”
AEDs can cost between $1,200 and $1,500, depending on the brand, he said, “but they all do the same thing.”
Training on how to use the device is often part of CPR training. The latest models give audio instructions to users, talking them through the process.
Papale pointed out that AEDs are not harmful. “They can be kind of intimidating, but they’re life-saving and very easy to use,” he said.