Fundraising for lifesaving devices

Robert Harrison holds wristbands he is selling as part of his effort to raise funds so that District 51 schools are equipped with automatic external defibrillators.



112511 AED devices

Robert Harrison holds wristbands he is selling as part of his effort to raise funds so that District 51 schools are equipped with automatic external defibrillators.

Palisade High School received School District 51’s first automated external defibrillator on Nov. 15.

If Grand Junction High School sophomore Robert Harrison achieves his goal, every traditional high school in the district will have a defibrillator by Dec. 15.

Harrison, 16, started raising money for defibrillators shortly after he learned a 17-year-old rugby player from Fort Collins and a 16-year-old basketball player from Michigan died of cardiac arrest within days of each other in March. An automated external defibrillator, which can restart a heart during sudden cardiac arrest, could have saved their lives.

Harrison was surprised to learn his school did not have a defibrillator. So, he set a goal to get one for his school as well as Central, Fruita Monument and Palisade high schools. Even though Palisade has received a donated device that will be mounted inside the school, Harrison said he still wants to get a portable defibrillator for the school by March.

The devices cost about $1,500 each. Harrison is trying to get $2,000 per school to cover the price and the cost of training for staff and students to learn how to use the devices.

A $2,000 donation from a Nebraska woman who wants to remain anonymous will pay for an automated external defibrillator at Grand Junction High. Harrison said the woman found him through an Internet search for people raising funds for the devices and decided to make a donation because both of her parents died of cardiac arrest.

Harrison is waiting for a doctor’s signature that will allow the school to use the device before he orders it. He said he wants to get physician signatures and the devices for Central and Fruita Monument as well by Dec. 15.

“We’re halfway, pretty much, at the other two schools, so Dec. 15 is not impossible,” he said.

He has raised $2,400 for the other devices so far, in addition to the $2,000 donation, in part through a $1,000 grant from the Kiwanis Club and a $500 donation from Rocky Mountain Health Plans. Harrison and friends from the other three schools have sold red wristbands that say “For the heart, from the heart” at sporting events for $2 apiece. All proceeds go to the project.

Harrison also is seeking business sponsorships. He and his father, Ron Harrison, recently sent 200 post cards to businesses to request donations. Information about sponsorships and how to donate or buy wristbands is available at fromtheheart fortheheart.org.

Ron Harrison said his family has done about everything it can to spread the word, but not all people see the urgent need for the devices in high schools. Ron Harrison said he hopes people will see the importance of defibrillators before a local tragedy happens like the ones on the Front Range and in Michigan.

“The thought is: Let’s not wait until it’s too late,” he said.

If he meets his first goal, Robert Harrison said he will move on to his next two goals: getting defibrillators in every District 51 middle school by August 2012 and in every elementary school by August 2013. He said he expects his first goal to be the easiest to meet.

“Middle schools will be a little harder because there are more of them. Same with the elementary schools,” he said.



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