Every London high school and a few elementary schools will soon be equipped with life-saving defibrillators, thanks to the fundraising efforts of a local fathers group.
Dad Club London presented the Thames Valley District School Board (TVDSB) with a cheque for $53,000 to purchase automated external defibrillators or AEDs. The group, which is made up of roughly 3,200 fathers from the London region, originally had a goal of $24,500 when it began fundraising in July.
"We forecasted about 90 days to hit our goal. We did that in the first 26 days and we kept going and ended up at $53,000 in a little less than three months," said Jeremy McCall, president of Dad Club London. "I was blown away. We thought we'd scratch and claw our way across the finish line right when school was starting but we got there in under a month and it just kept coming and coming. Every day new donors came forward."
To raise the cash, Dad Club members held bottle drives, used-item sales, and organized a charity golf tournament.
"We even said just give what you can and our members gave above and beyond our wildest expectations. I think nine members gave over $1,000 apiece so it really opened our eyes as to how generous our community really is," said McCall.
Dad Club was challenged to raise the money to buy AEDs by one of its members, TVDSB trustee Jake Skinner. The push to get the life-saving equipment into the schools came after the death of 15-year-old Andrew Stoddart. The Ingersoll District Collegiate Institute student died in 2015 after suffering cardiac arrest while playing soccer. The school did not have an AED.
"It's very rewarding for us to know that Andrew's death wasn't in vain and that something good is coming from it," said Stoddart's mother Cara Schmidt, who was at Tuesday's cheque presentation. "It's just an incredible feeling to know that nobody else has to go through what we had to go through. Nobody else will have to bury their son because a piece of equipment isn't available."
AEDs dramatically increase a heart attack victim's chance of survival when administered shortly after cardiac arrest. The device sends an electric current to the heart, allowing it to re-establish a normal rhythm. The portable machines typically cost $1,600 apiece.
Any money left over after the board purchases AEDs for all secondary schools will be put towards equipping elementary schools.
"We are going to be starting with the elementary schools that are least well off and work backwards," said Skinner. "Hopefully we will be promoting home and school associations and school councils to begin fundraisers to equip their elementary schools as well."
Out of the board's 130 elementary schools, only seven are equipped with a defibrillator. However, the board has launched a plan that would see the devices installed in all of its schools within five years.