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Tufaro and Sherrod Foundations Provide AED and Training to Edison Youth Football Program

Tufaro and Sherrod foundations provide AED and training to Edison youth football program

The North Edison Shamrocks Pop Warner football program received a state-of-the-art AED from The Marisa Tufaro Foundation and the Kittim N. Sherrod Foundation on Friday. (Photo: Submitted photo)

The Marisa Tufaro Foundation and the Kittim N. Sherrod Foundation have partnered to provide a state-of-the-art bilingual portable automated external defibrillator to the North Edison Shamrocks Pop Warner football and cheerleading program, as well as AED and cardiopulmonary resuscitation training for adult members of the organization.

The donation fulfills the mission statements of both Edison-based nonprofits. The Tufaro foundation helps children in need throughout Middlesex County, while the Sherrod foundation supports research and awareness programs with a goal of helping to prevent sudden cardiac death.

While state law requires all public and private K through 12 schools in New Jersey to have an AED within reasonable proximity of a gymnasium or athletic field, as well as an emergency action plan for sudden cardiac arrest, no such legislation exists for youth leagues.

A bill, which Assemblywoman Nancy Pinkin, D-Middlesex, introduced in 2014, that would have required youth sports leagues in New Jersey to have defibrillators and people trained to use them at every game and practice, narrowly passed through the Assembly, but stalled in the statehouse three years ago.

Despite the bill's life-saving intentions, it stalled over concern that the multimillion dollar cost would push registration fees higher and that the additional training requirement would discourage would-be coaches from volunteering.

The donation to the North Edison Shamrocks was made in loving memory of Sherrod, a former Edison High School football star who at the age of 17 collapsed and died during an April 2009 training run with the high school’s track and field team, and was inspired through the untimely passing of Sean Fisher, a 13-year-old from Waldwick who collapsed and died on a Bergen County football field in 2008 after going into sudden cardiac arrest. Sherrod and Fisher were both living with undetected heart defects.

The leadership of the Sherrod and Tufaro foundations met Fisher’s father, Jim, who established a nonprofit with a goal similar to that of the Sherrod foundation in his son’s loving memory. The latest mission of the Sean Fisher Memorial Foundation is to educate coaches and leaders of youth sports leagues nationwide about the need to be trained to handle a sudden cardiac arrest emergency through a campaign called “All Heart.” The Sean Fisher Foundation has donated AEDs to multiple sports leagues across the state.

“I think it was really great that the North Edison Shamrocks accepted this equipment and education given to them,” said Dr. Nidhi Kumar, a cardiologist and Medical Director of Women’s Health at Saint Peter’s University Hospital, who joined representatives from the Tufaro and Sherrod foundations in presenting the AED to the North Edison Shamrocks’ executive board at the youth organization’s complex last week.

“It’s really a way to translate loss into life because both Kittim and Sean died as athletes on the field. It was a tragedy that affected thousands of people that day and continues to. This work through the All Heart program and the (Sherrod and Tufaro) foundations to eliminate sudden cardiac death in youth athletes can progress through clubs such as the Shamrocks, who are now going to be trained to deal with these emergencies should they arise. Perhaps it’s work like this that makes the loss of those athletes have some meaning beyond just utter tragedy.”

North Edison Shamrocks president Danny Darbouze said he and his wife Rhonda – parents of two young children – have often thought in recent years about how his organization would deal with a cardiac emergency on the playing field.

“You hear in the news, athletes just kind of drop, so I think it will help, it can save a life, because you never know what can happen,” Darbouze said of the North Edison Shamrocks receiving the AED and training. “Being that the AED we received is portable, we can take it to away games, and then we can kind of start talking to other coaches, maybe other organizations that don’t have one, and let them know and really set a trend of prevention. I think it’s not something that many organizations think of. I think that’s something that we want to be at the forefront of. If we can let another team know or another program know and say, hey, this is out there for you guys, maybe kind of put a bug in their ear, and it’s something that can maybe save another life.”

The donation of the AED, which covers the cost of a years-long maintenance plan and also provides the North Edison Shamrocks with pediatric and adult defibrillator pads, as well as a portable carrying case and AED ready kit, has added meaning to Sherrod’s family. Before moving to South Edison, Kittim Sherrod lived in the Greenwood Townhomes, less than a quarter mile from the North Edison Shamrocks field (the Edison Jets Pop Warner program, where Kittim played youth football, has an AED on site at its South Edison complex). Sherrod's uncle, Kenneth Andrews, played for the Shamrocks. “It’s really hard to find the words,” said Sherrod’s grandmother, Razeenah Walker, who is president of the Kittim N. Sherrod Foundation. “For me, it comes full circle. We lived on this side of Edison, and who would ever think this day would come where we would be able and honored to give this gift to these youth. We are just very happy that we were able to partner up with The Marisa Tufaro Foundation, as well. It’s just wonderful that we are making a difference to save a life, one step at a time.”

The Sherrod and Fisher foundations have worked to provide free cardiac screenings to prevent sudden cardiac death in athletes, which occur in one in 200,000 athletes nationwide, according to the American Heart Association. Dr. Kumar said many experts believe the incidence is greater, making the need for rapid response and the availability of automated external defibrillators paramount.

“I know there’s been a huge push to have EKG and echocardiograms mandated as screening tools, but the reality is the healthcare dollars won’t support that legislation to ever pass,” Dr. Kumar said. “In my opinion, the other thing is that (cardiac screenings) may give people a false sense of security because there are athletes that have cardiac issues that may not be detected by those screening tools. So, the key is how we respond. You hear these stories all the time where a perfectly healthy looking athlete goes down in the middle of the field. If a defibrillator is present, the chances are that athlete is going to get up and walk off the field. If the defibrillator is not present, that athlete will have a very different outcome and often not make it. This type of an emergency is an emergency where timing and every second counts.”

Edison High School certified athletics trainer Tim Root and several coaches from both Edison and Colonia high schools used an AED and their training to save the life of a Colonia basketball player who collapsed on the court during a freshman game two years ago. The player was more fortunate than Sherrod and two other athletes from Middlesex County – Brandon James of South Brunswick and Patrick Awosogba of East Brunswick – who within the last decade collapsed and died after going into sudden cardiac arrest while playing basketball.

“The risk of mortality from a sudden cardiac arrest increases 10 percent every minute without defibrillation,” Dr. Kumar said, “so the thought is that if we train coaches to be first responders, we can address the issue immediately where a coach is in a position to react, respond and save a life.”

Darbouze said he believed the expense of an AED and training prevents youth sports organizations from obtaining such life-saving tools.

“The fact that it doesn’t cost us anything is great, because I know that we have looked around and these are quite expensive,” Darbouze said. “For us, as a nonprofit, this is definitely a benefit, because everything that we do is out of pocket. Especially for a program like ours, which is a free program, so we subsidize all our kids that come play for us, and we want to keep kids involved.”

Darbouze likened having the AED and training that goes along with the life-saving equipment to an added layer of protection for his organization’s players.

“We get new helmets every other year, and we get new pads,” he said. “This is just another tool we can use for prevention and safety.”

Story Credit: https://www.mycentraljersey.com/story/news/2018/06/24/tufaro-and-sherrod-foundations-provide-aed-and-training-edison-youth-football-program/729000002/