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Kevs Foundation in Southampton donates defibrillator to Northampton High School

NORTHAMPTON — Sudden cardiac arrest, a condition that occurs during intense physical activity such as team sports, kills 5,000 people each year between the ages of 14 and 34, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control.

But sudden death can be averted if the right equipment is at hand.

Northampton High School this week became the second area high school to receive a $2,000 automated external defibrillator, a portable machine that can save lives by quickly treating sudden cardiac arrest.

The KEVS Foundation in Southampton donated the defibrillator to the Northampton High sports program. KEVS Foundation founder Susan Canning said the first donation went to Saint Mary High School in Westfield, her son Kevin Major’s alma mater.

Major, who lettered in hockey, baseball, lacrosse, soccer and golf while in high school, died of sudden cardiac arrest in 2011 at age 19 after a boating accident.

The foundation created in his honor has donated seven defibrillators to school and community sports programs in Massachusetts and hosted heart screenings and training sessions for hundreds of participants, Canning said in a telephone interview this week.

“Anything we can do to prevent another parent from losing a child to sudden cardiac arrest, we will do in Kevin’s memory,” she said.

Canning cited studies by the American Heart Association that show the use of defibrillators, along with cardiopulmonary resuscitation, can double the survival rates of people experiencing sudden cardiac arrest.

James Miller, the athletic director at Northampton High, said he learned about the foundation at a free heart screening it sponsored at the high school last spring and decided to apply for an automated defibrillator.

The donation brings to three the number in use by the high school sports program, Miller said. The newest machine will be housed at the pool at JFK Middle School, the site of swim team practices and city Recreation Department swim programs.

While there have been no cases of sudden cardiac arrest among students in Northampton sports programs, “I have heard of them at other schools and there have been cases where an AED has saved someone.” Miller said.

The new defibrillator will be on display at the high school’s annual sports assembly at 7 p.m. Wednesday. Students from the high school theater department will also perform a skit about life-saving techniques.

Canning said she is looking forward to the student presentation because education is the mission of her family’s foundation.

“We owe it to our children to teach them early,” she said. “They are our future coaches and parents.”

Information about KEVS Foundation’s grants and upcoming screenings can be found online at www.kevsfoundation.com.

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