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Simon's Fund: Checking hearts and saving lives of student athletes
by Scott Butler 3/19/13

With three Philadelphia college basketball teams and thousands of student athletes ready to take center stage in March Madness, I wanted to divert your attention from baseball to plug a great local charity. Trish Harrington, a friend of mine and of course of Phils Baseball, alerted me about Simon's Fund, a local Philadelphia charity she works with that screens student athletes' hearts -- and raises awareness about the leading killer of student athletes: sudden cardiac arrest.

Here is their story:

In September, 2011, I was at a Radnor High School Friday night football game where a 7th grader was signing kids up for a heart screening for his Bar Mitzvah service project. The screening was performed by a locally based non-profit group, Simon's Fund, who's goal is to raise awareness of SCA (sudden cardiac arrest) and is administered by Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) for an ongoing clinical study. My mom had passed away in August and had heart problems for many years, so I signed up Sara Jane and Drew to take part in the screening held in the high school gym on Sept 17th, 2011.

283 kids were screened that day, and Drew was diagnosed with WPW (Wolf Parkinson White Syndrome) which are extra pathways in the heart. We brought him to CHOP for further testing which included a stress test, another EKG, and an echocardiogram. The doctors found out he was at risk for ventricular fibrillation and they needed to repair his heart by cardiac ablation, a minimally invasive procedure. We went on October 21st and after a long day his heart was repaired. We never would have known he had this condition if he did not attend the screening -- they do not give kids EKG's at physicals.

Later that evening I went on the Simon's Fund web site ..."What do you get a 7 year old for his birthday??".... Oct 21st was to be Simon's 7th birthday and his parents were launching a new web site in his honor -- the same day my son had his his procedure at CHOP - WOW! Right then I committed to doing whatever I could to help spread the simple and life saving work this fund is trying to accomplish in the Philadelphia area. Had Drew not been tested with a simple EKG, he had the unknown possibility of ending up being another student athlete you read about collapsing "suddenly" on the basketball court, lacrosse field, tennis court, etc.....He has an EKG every year as the pathways have a slight chance of re-opening and he is back to playing sports 150%!!

The Big Five coaches recently filmed a Public Service Announcement last fall for Simon's Fund and for the sudden cardiac arrest law that was passed in PA requiring all coaches who work in schools or sports programs that receive public funding to be trained in the warning signs of SCA. Each coach did a single version and Drexel & Villanova play their video before each of their basketball games.

You can learn more about Simon's Fund by visiting their website at http://www.simonsfund.org/.

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