Expressions of gratitude between members of law enforcement and those they protect highlighted the donation of 33 AEDs (automatic external defibrillators) to LaPorte County first responders.
The presentation on Nov. 19 at Franciscan Health Michigan City was the culmination of the second annual Bolt for the Heart 5K Family Run/Walk and inaugural Half Marathon. Sponsorships and funds raised by the race paid for 29 AEDs for the LaPorte County Sheriff’s Department and four more for the Long Beach Police Department.
Bolt for the Heart President Pierre M. Twer said, “We want to give a heartfelt thanks to our law enforcement heroes here in LaPorte County. Thanks for being resilient and brave and dedicated, especially during these tough times.”
Twer cited the contributions of race participants along with sponsors Franciscan Health, the Play for Jake Foundation and Performance Services. Other individuals and company donations were recognized with window clings that will be displayed in squad cars. “We are humbled to be able to do this. It’s taken a lot of people to make this all happen, but lives will be saved because of this donation today and LaPorte County will be safer,” he said.
LaPorte County Sheriff John Boyd said the officers appreciated the effort. “I’d like to thank everyone that’s here today for your unwavering support at a time when we need it more than any other time that we’ve experienced it in our careers.”
Boyd noted that last year, deputies from the sheriff’s office responded to 253 medical calls in rural areas of the county, and nearly 200 such calls this year. “There are times when a police officer is as many as 16 miles closer to a patient who is in need, than an ambulance. And in the case of cardiac arrest, minutes can be the difference between survivability and death,” he said.
The Bolt for the Heart race, held on Sept. 27 at Washington Park in Michigan City, had to adjust to challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The 285 participants, including 30 half marathon runners, were kept safe through masking, hand sanitation, staggered start times and distancing protocols approved by the LaPorte County Health Department. A virtual race option was also available.
“It takes a great team and a great effort to host a successful event in this day and age, and here we are gathered today to celebrate exactly that,” said Franciscan Health Michigan City President and CEO Dean Mazzoni. “Despite the circumstances, this group demonstrated beyond a doubt that we can safely and responsibly have our Bolt for the Heart event.”
Twer echoed the praise, saying, “From a community support, city support, law enforcement support, EMS support, it is probably the finest event we’ve put on from a community standpoint, and that’s saying something because this is the ninth year we’ve been doing races.”
Tim Thoman, president and CEO of Performance Services and board member of Bolt for the Heart, said he was thankful to join in this “meaningful work” for the community, since his company was selected by the Michigan City Area Schools to install their solar power systems. To the officers present, he added, “We are so thankful and so appreciative that you work so hard to save our lives and to keep us safe and we’re behind you.”
This year’s donation of AEDs amounts to $49,500 in value, continuing the work of the 29 AEDs donated through the Bolt for the Heart event in 2019. With the goal of placing an AED in every patrol car in LaPorte County, Twer said the organization will continue work to outfit the LaPorte and Michigan City police departments next year.
Bolt for the Heart is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization that raises money through generous sponsors like Franciscan Health, donations and family 5Ks/half marathons to buy AEDs for first responders. Bolt has donated more than 2,000 AEDs, including 465 AEDs for the Indiana State Police, to date. For more information or to donate, go to www.boltfortheheart.com.
The Play For Jake Foundation is named in honor of Jake West, a LaPorte High School football player who passed away suddenly during practice from an undetected heart condition. The organization aims to increase awareness and educate parents and youth about the dangers of undetected heart conditions, a goal that goes together with Bolt for the Heart. For more information or to donate, go to playforjake.org.