Slidell, LA--She did it. A petite brunette who lost her son Sept. 29, 2011, mere months ago, to heart disease, Ann Hebert was determined that no other mom would have to go through what she did. In working through their grief, she and husband Marius formed the Jeremy Michael Hebert Trust Fund with the Northshore Community Foundation and began raising money to provide automated external defibrillators (AEDs) for each school in the parish.
“I never want any other family to go through what we went through if it could be helped,” she said. Thursday night it was announced they had accomplished their initial goal.
At the February meeting of the St. Tammany Parish School Board, Feb. 9, it was announced that there would be a Jerseys for Jeremy Day Feb. 29 to raise funds for the Foundation. Students wore their favorite team jersey for a $1 donation. In fact, many did not wear their jersey, but donated the money anyway. One student said, “I made $2 and want to give it all.”
A total of $30,000 was raised, assuring a minimum of one AED for each school, including middle and elementary schools.
Jeremy Hebert was a 12-year-old student at Pine View Middle School who played football and the drums. He had battled heart disease for many years, but lived life to the fullest. One day, he collapsed at school. His parents set up the funds to provide the devices to help save lives.
At the same February school board meeting, Nancy and A. J. Barcia, parents of a 6-foot-4 De La Salle rugby player who died of sudden cardiac arrest under similar circumstances in March 2005, donated 11 AEDs to middle schools in St. Tammany.
Like the Heberts, they also vowed to help other schools and formed the Chad Barcia Athletic Foundation. Their purpose is to identify and secure more in depth health screening in schools; insure there is an AED at every school in the state; and provide safety protective gear for all sports for each student.
“When I heard about Jeremy, my heart broke all over again,” said Nancy Barcia.“I reached out to the Heberts. When you lose a child, the pain never goes away, it’s always in your heart. We have been fortunate to give away 61 AEDs throughout the state as far away as Monroe, I don’t want any parent to go through this. I think it’s wonderful you are making your parish a heart safe community. The survival rate of a sudden cardiac arrest increases from 5 percent to about 80 percent when an AED is used,” she said.
Ann Hebert was in tears Thursday night as she realized her dream. She thanked everyone, including her friends and family, not wanting to take credit for anything. They, in return, talked about her determination, faith and strength to be able to turn grief into something so powerful and positive for the whole parish. But she said her dream has not been fully realized. On Friday morning she said, “There’s more to do. This is only a start, a minimum. In order for AEDs to be their most effective, the shock must be given within the first 3-5 minutes. Some of the campuses are so spread out, they need two or more AEDs. And then there is the training to consider, we need more trained personnel. And more spare equipment—pads and batteries.”
A bundle of energy with a mission to help the students of the parish, the Heberts do not plan to stop raising money any time soon. “I have an invitation to speak to Kiwanis Clubs, other groups and the donations keep coming. It’s wonderful. Many schools do need more and we plan to continue raising funds.”
St. Tammany Parish Schools adopted an AED policy, the first in the state, in 2009. The were first placed in the high schools because it was felt the need was greatest there due to athletics and visitors at events in the auditoriums. Athletic Director Larry Favre said that the new equipment should be in the schools by the end of the month.
“I just want other mothers and the students themselves to feel peace and security, knowing the equipment is there if they need it,” said Ann Hebert. And with the Heberts continuing efforts, even more families across the parish will feel this way.
SOURCE: St. Tammany News