Just over a year ago Wes Leonard passed away on our Fennville High School basketball court. Wes had just scored the winning basket to cap an undefeated varsity basketball season, something that he and his teammates would really never get to celebrate. Wes suffered from sudden cardiac arrest (SCA), collapsed on the gym floor in front of his team, fans, and family. Fennville was not prepared for this emergency situation and therefore we were not ready to save his life. Fennville had automated external defibrillator (AED), but the AED didn’t have a working battery. Wes’s heart was shockable and he might still be with us today if Fennville had maintained their AED.
After Wes’s passing the family and friends organized the Wes Leonard Heart Team. Our mission is to push our state government to pass a law that would mandate every school to be equipped with these life saving devices, AEDs. Until that happens we are trying to donate AEDs to schools, help them raise funds to purchase AEDs, and promote SCA and CPR/AED certification. We have five members of our team that are First Aid, CPR, and AED instructors. The Heart Team has certified over 400 individuals who include teachers, coaches, and community members.
The Heart Team’s goal is to make sure schools are safe and prepared for this type of an emergency. The year after Wes’s passing several schools and communities in Michigan were affected by sudden cardiac arrest. Some of these schools were prepared to help save a life, while others were not prepared and had to suffer the same tragic consequences as Fennville.
The Heart Team’s hope is that you or your school will jump on board with our “Never Forgotten” game. Make the first game of the year your “Never Forgotten” game so both the home school and the visiting school can work together to raise enough funds to each purchase an AED. If your school already has an AED, perhaps your school could use another AED in a centrally located place. Maybe, you or your school would like to purchase a traveling AED that can be taken to scrimmages, away games, or you would like to have one available on bus rides to and from games.
Our goal is that we can help schools raise the money to purchase this life saving device. By you taking charge you can bring more awareness and spotlight to this issue. With two schools working together, we believe each game that night can raise enough funds to purchase two AEDs (one for the home school and one for the visiting school).
Thank you for taking the time to read this letter and understand our mission is to be prepared to save a life. I understand tough situations occur in life and not being prepared is a lesson I hope that no one else will have to experience. An AED can save a spectator, save an official, save a player, save a friend, save a family member, or it may help save your life.
Let’s give everybody a chance for “Just One More Game”.
Ryan Klingler, Basketball Coach
Member of the Wes Leonard Heart Team