Community Volunteers and Heroes Honored by American Heart

Imagine you were at work and your co-worker collapsed next to you—his heartbeat stopped. You only have four minutes to help before he dies. Would you know what to do to save his life?

Luckily for Bob Wilson, his Culinary Institute of America colleagues knew what to do. They used CPR and an AED when his heart suddenly stopped beating while he was walking on campus. His rescuers were honored at the American Heart Association’s (AHA) 1st Annual Volunteer Awards event on June 14th at the Poughkeepsie Grand Hotel.Bob Wilsons Heroes

Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) is a leading cause of death. This electrical malfunction in the heart causes an irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia) disrupting the normal flow of blood to the brain, lungs and other organs, causing death within minutes. Each year, over 350,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests occur in the United States. According to the AHA, 90 percent of people who suffer out-of-hospital cardiac arrests die. But when a bystander immediately uses CPR, or cardiopulmonary resuscitation, it can double or triple a cardiac arrest victim’s chance of survival.

Wilson had trouble breathing and collapsed while walking with a friend, Laurie Lecomte, on their usual morning walk. She ran to get a campus safety officer, and Carl Wilson (no relation) responded. Al Siefert, dispatcher, called 9-1-1.

Jeff Levine, Communications Manager at the CIA, and Neil Garrison, Supervisor of Environmental Health & Safety, both former EMTs, had just arrived in the parking lot for their workdays, and saw their colleague giving CPR to a victim. They ran to assist as Safety Officer, Rob Barclay brought an automatic external defibrillator, which can restore a normal heart rhythm. EMS paramedics arrived quickly and took over. He was transported to Vassar Hospital and was back to work three weeks later.Bob Wilson

“Why did Bob Wilson survive? Because the Chain of Survival is strong at the Culinary. First, his colleagues recognized it was a cardiac emergency—they got help immediately and called 911. He’s alive because three bystanders knew CPR and didn’t delay in using it. They brought an AED to Bob’s side for early defibrillation, and paramedics were at the scene quickly. Without their fast intervention and training in CPR, we wouldn’t be celebrating Bob Wilson’s life,” said David Violante, Arlington Fire District Director of Emergency Medical Services, and AHA board member.

As rare as survival is from cardiac arrest, this is the second cardiac arrest victim saved on campus. In 2008, CIA student Douglas Chrisman collapsed during class in a kitchen. Again, the Chain of Survival was strong and his life was saved. Carl Wilson and Garrison assisted then, too.

Levine said when he was an EMT, he’d used CPR dozens of times, with only two victims survivinEmpire State Bank Award 2016g. This was the first friend he saved with CPR. Garrison is an American Heart Association CPR/AED & First Aid Instructor.

“We train for this very situation, but we hope it never happens,” said Garrison, “It just proves that the chain of survival here on campus and in the local community is strong and does work.  Being CPR-trained is a life skill that everyone shoul d have and the opportunity to help someone can occur anywhere and anytime, when least expected,” said Garrison.

Why should you know CPR? The AHA states that 70 percent of out-of-hospital cardiac arrests happen outside the hospital—you will most likely be trying to save the life of someone you love. View the AHA’s training video at

The American Heart Association also recognized community and school volunteers for their service to the AHA’s slate of annual events including Heart Walk, Go Red For Women, Youth Market programs and community-based programs.

Anthony Bongiorno 2016 Spirit Award Winner – Hands-Only CPR training in community

Top Individual Fundraiser Heart Walk – Dr. Thomas Mawhinney is a cardiac arrest survivor, past honoree and this year he raised over $6,000 to support the work of the Heart Association.IMG_9854

Heart Walk Awards – Corporate

  • IBM with $71,773.00 raised
  • Adam’s Fairacre Farms, who had a record breaking year raising $43,792
  • Health Quest, whose teams raised $14,080 this year

Kid with Heart award, presented to Ryley Neser. Ryley is a 3rd grader at Titusville Intermediate School in the Arlington School District. For the past two years, Ryley has been the top fundraiser during his school’s Jump Rope for Heart event. Ryley jumps and raises donations in honor of his younger sister, Lily. Lily with a genetic disorder called 5p minus syndrome and two ventricular septal defects. Ryley has raised over $5,000 for the American Heart Association during his two years of participating in Jump Rope for Heart and has done a great of communicating to his classmates why it is so important to jump for kids with special hearts.

School District with Heart – Arlington Central School District. Every school in the district participates in one or several AHAIMG_9960 programs to raise money or awareness – including Jump Rope for Heart, Hoops for Heart, Wear Red Day, and the Fit Friendly Workplace program.

Norm Schofield Award – The Norm Schofield Award is named in honor of the H. Normington Schofield, a former Physical Education teacher at Gayhead Elementary who passed away from a cardiac event. It is given each year to the school in the Hudson Valley that raises the most donations for Jump Rope for Heart and Hoops for Heart. Presented to: Gayhead Elementary

Youth Market Program Coordinator of the Year – Kathleen Howard, the physical education teacher at Eugene Brooks Intermediate School in the Webutuck School District.

See our photo album from the event here.

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