By Lindsay Carey
Hoops for Heart Health founder and former NBA player Ryan Gomes donated three automated external defibrillators (AEDs) to Southington Public Schools last week.
Gomes and Wayne Simone, from Hoops for Health, visited the Municipal Center to present the defibrillators to the school system.
If a person goes into Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA), an AED provides an immediate response to their heart. This spares the victim the time of having to wait for care from an ambulance.
The Hoops for Heart Health Foundation has been giving away defibrillators for eight years now, as a proactive effort to save lives.
“Sometimes you don’t know you need a defibrillator until it’s too late,” said Simone. “We’re trying to be ahead of the curve.”
School Nursing Supervisor Marie Bordonaro said that as a nurse she has seen firsthand the benefit of having an AED present in the event of an emergency.
“The sooner the better to save a life,” said Bordonaro.
The school system has been working on bringing AEDs into schools through funding and donations over the years. However the needs have not been completely met.
When Bordonaro found out about the foundation through Director of Health for the Plainville-Southington Health District Shane Lockwood at the School Health Council meeting, she started the initiative to receive additional support.
Bordonaro then made it a priority to get a request in to Hoops for Heart Health for the AEDs. She worked with the school district’s grant writer Christine Boulanger, who put in the grant through the Hoops for Heart Health website.
To receive AEDs from Hoops for Health there also must be some kind of financial support or donations coming in from to community to assist the organization in providing. People in the Southington community stepped up and raised funds and Hoops for Health donated the remainder of the money to purchase the AEDs.
“I was contacted immediately by them,” said Bordonaro. “They were very excited to help us.”
Gomes said that helping this community was important, because it is nearby his hometown of Waterbury.
Hoops for Heart Health has already donated AEDs to a lot of the schools there and is continuing to branch out and help communities in Connecticut, Gomes said.
Simone, Gomes and Bordonaro said that they are going to continue to work together to get five more defibrillators for the schools. However, in order to receive the equipment for the next five schools, the initiative needs the community’s support.
Simone and Gomes also said that it would be ideal for all of the public buildings to have access to defibrillators.
According to the Superintendent of Schools Timothy Connellan, Southington Public Schools has about 6,700 students and with that comes parents and family.
“It’s amazing the amount of parental support that we have,” said Connellan.
Now with the aid of the defibrillators, the school system will be able to return some of that support.
“We have grandparents in our buildings, extended family members, aunts and uncles and this is going to go a long way in helping to ensure that people can be safe in these buildings,” said Connellan.
Simone and Gomes have an important reason for why this cause is near and dear to them. In 2005, one of the players in Simone’s AAU program unfortunately passed away due to sudden cardiac arrest.
“That kind of hit hard to home,” said Gomes, who was one of Simone’s AAU players years ago. “He’s from New Haven and we knew him. That kind of triggered us to start this foundation.”
Gomes and Simone partnered with others who have lost loved ones from SCA or has seen the value in making AEDs accessible. He also said that they donate to defibrillators to every city he plays in, as well as making sure that local towns in Connecticut are equipped.
“It’s like I tell people all the time, it’s like having car insurance,” said Gomes. “You want to have this just in case.”
By Lindsay Carey