After hearing Michael Ellsessar’s story, a 16-year-old who died of sudden cardiac arrest in 2010 after getting hit in the chest during a football game, Gracie Soultanian, then 12 now 15, decided she needed to do something. There are no warning signs for sudden cardiac arrest, allowing any athlete to be at risk. Gracie felt that it was important to raise awareness about sudden cardiac arrest and funds to help schools and athletic fields to have AEDs and for coaches and students to know CPR.
Through essay contests, grants and fundraising, Gracie has raised more than $5,000 to purchase AEDs to be placed at playing fields, town beaches and town pools in the Ayer-Shirley area. In fall 2013, Gracie began her Youth Venture project, “Heartstrong”, to help educate her community about sudden cardiac arrest and to promote CPR in schools. She has shared her story at the American Heart Association’s annual Heart on the Hill event, testified in front of the Joint Committee of Public Health in support of AEDs in School and has conducted a CPR training for coaches in her community. She was honored as one of our Heart of Gold. The Heart of Gold Award is presented each year to a member or group of members of the Central Massachusetts’ community who have enhanced the quality of life in the region and have played a significant role in advancing the mission of the American Heart Association.
Over the last month Gracie has been at it again, she has come up to the State House multiple times to tell her legislators that AEDs should be required in Schools. She has been a dedicated advocate who has had a powerful voice that has made legislators take notice and action. I look forward to getting this bill done thanks to Gracie and many other advocates work.