Michael Monteleone Memorial Fund

Southeast New England Heart Safe Community Foundation

Michael Monteleone Memorial Fund

2005 - 2010

Every year, over 300,000 Americans die from sudden cardiac arrest. The typical survival rate of only 5% can be increased to over 50% by the widespread availability of Automated Defibrillators and of community CPR training. Along with other public places, schools are an especially good location for AED placement because an estimated 20% of the nation's population may be found inside schools on a given weekday. And if only 10% of high school students in America were trained in CPR and AED use, an estimated 1 million lay rescuers would be produced each year.

The mission of the Heart Safe Foundation was to assist in training the community, including high school students, in CPR and AED use; assist with funding of AED programs to promote placement of AEDs in local schools, athletic facilities, and public gathering places; provide cost effective educational resources for CPR/AED training; promote a physician CPR prescription program for families of high risk patients; and encourage the RI Dept of Health to adopt a state-wide heartsafe strategy. During our 5 years of activity, the Foundation raised over $350,000 and donated over 150 AED's to 56 high schools and 40 middle schools throughout Rhode Island. This included 33 AEDs to the Providence school system. We also trained dozens of students in CPR.

In 2004, a small group of physicians and nurses from South County Hospital began to educate local schools and recreational leagues on the risks of sudden cardiac death in young athletes, and on emergency response strategies enacted in places such as NY State, as well as mandates from organizations like the American Heart Association and the National Association of Athletic Trainers. We found a lot of interest, but realized that financing AED programs posed the biggest obstacle for implementation. Schools and recreational leagues would be a lot more interested in what we had to say if we also had some funding in our back pocket to help them.

From the first time we approached them, South County Hospital and its CEO Lou Giancola made significant efforts to help our cause. They provided staffing, financial assistance, and materials to assist us in forming a non-profit, 501c(3) tax exempt organization, the Southeast New England Heartsafe Community Foundation.

The Foundation was initially the idea of Neil Brandon, MD, a Wakefield cardiologist. Other key participants in our organization included Bill Sabina, MD, South County Hospital Emergency Physician; David Hiltz of the American Heart Association; Bob Cavanagh, Athletic Director for South Kingstown; Bob Littlefield, Principal of Portsmouth HS and member of the RIIL Principal's Committee; Keith Richards, head of South Kingstown EMS; Kirk Pickell of the Narragansett Lions Club; former hospital CFO Mike Koziol, who served as Foundation Treasurer; and several other members of the SCH staff, including the cardiac rehab department. Former hospital fundraiser Tony Despirito was an early champion of our mission. Attorney Cindy Warren of Cameron and Mittleman, LLP provided discounted legal services and deferred payments.

The Amica Corporation was our most important funding source, as well as an outstanding example for our cause, with their heartsafe office complex in Lincoln, RI. Executives Robert DiMuccio, Marybeth Williamson, and Vince Burks were highly supportive of our Foundation. Other major donors have included CVS Corporation, the State of Rhode Island, and the Narragansett Lions Club. Amy Linke, RN provided the bulk of our donated administrative support, and Jeff Linke of Hyperlinke Design generously provided our website and database tool at no cost. We are also appreciative of the public relations help we received from Liz Prager Obrien. We are proud that, due to the extent of our volunteer efforts, we had virtually no administrative costs.

The tragic death of 9th grade baseball player Michael Monteleone on the Lincoln HS ball field in May, 2005 brought renewed attention and energy to our cause. By all accounts, Michael Monteleone was an extraordinary young man. He was a gifted athlete, who starred for the 2003 RI State Championship Little League team. As a ninth grader, Michael started for the JV baseball team. He played basketball for the 2004 RI Middle School State Championship team. He was well known for his infectious smile and his keen sense of humor; many have said that he could cheer them up out of their deepest doldrums. In addition, his family, friends and teachers make it clear that Michael possessed a degree of compassion and empathy that was unusual for his age. But despite his big heart, and unknown to his family, Michael also possessed a congenital cardiac abnormality common to families of Northern Italian descent, which caused him to suffer a fatal cardiac arrest in May, 2005. The sudden death of an extraordinary young athlete like Michael Monteleone is devastating to all of us, and especially so to his family. There have been other young athletes who died of cardiac arrest in Rhode Island since the death of Michael; these families chose to keep their tragedies private. But Michael's father Anthony channeled his grief into working to see that no other family in Rhode Island will have to suffer the same kind of loss, without knowing that everything possible was done to prevent and treat it. Anthony joined forces with the Southeast New England Heart Safe Community Foundation to form the Michael Monteleone Memorial Fund. Anthony Monteleone's extraordinary fundraising efforts were the main reason for our success. We have been able to help Rhode Island to become a model where every citizen and visitor can know that they has the best chance possible of surviving a cardiac arrest.