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Thames Valley District School Board completes installation of AEDs in every school

The push to install AED devices in schools and public spaces came following the death of 15-year-old Andrew Stoddart of Thamesford. . Tim Boyle / Getty Images

There is now an added layer of protection at Thames Valley District School Board (TVDSB) after a preventable tragedy prompted a push for change.

In a board meeting on Tuesday, director of education Mark Fisher announced automated external defibrillator (AED) machines had been installed in every TVDSB school.

Read more: Fundraiser seeks to have AED machines in all London high schools by fall 2017

TVDSB is one of the largest boards in Ontario, serving more than 82,000 students in London, Middlesex County, Elgin County and Oxford County.

Fisher says the AEDs were funded in part by the Ontario School Boards’ Insurance Exchange audit, an annual review that aims to mitigate risk and reduce staff, student and visitor accidents at schools.

“We were able to use these funds to purchase the remaining 47 AEDs at a cost of $41,245 for schools that were unable to conduct enough fundraising or who were not recipients of donations to allow for an AED to be purchased and installed,” Fisher told the board meeting.

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Among the fundraisers held to help install the AEDs included an effort from Dad Club London that raised more than $50,000 for the cause.

“Our health and safety team will be notifying EMS for 911 purposes with the locations of every AED in each one of our TVDSB locations,” Fisher added.

Read more: New software identifies location of nearest AED during 911 calls

The push to install AED devices in schools came following the death of 15-year-old Andrew Stoddart of Thamesford.

In May 2015, Stoddart was playing soccer in Kintore when he collapsed on the field before dying from a cardiac arrest.

“Unfortunately, there was no AED on sight… he was a healthy 15-year-old boy and that shouldn’t have happened,” said Stoddart’s mother Cara Schmidt.

With the help of family and close friends, Schmidt then launched Andrew’s Legacy, a group dedicated to having AEDs installed in all public places.

Read more: London area school trustees commit to installing defibrillators in all schools

The group pushed for TVDSB to do so within its own schools in 2017, with the board committing to completing the action within three to five years.

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“We knew we’d get it done,” Schmidt said as she recalled the beginning of the effort.

“I am very grateful that all the schools now have the AED… if somebody goes down with a cardiac arrest, they will be safe and they could be potentially be saved, unlike my son.”

Schmidt, who told Global News she had only learned of the completed installations on Wednesday, was just as grateful for those who helped her along the way.

“I thank (TVDSB Trustee) Jake Skinner, (Zorra Township Mayor) Marcus Ryan, (Thames Centre Dept. Mayor) Kelly Elliott, everybody who has seen the need to put AEDs in public places and has helped us to get to where we are today,” Schmidt said.

“It takes a community of people to make things happen and we’ve definitely had a community around us.”

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While the installation of AEDs in all of TVDSB’s schools is a cause for celebration, the work is far from over for Andrew’s Legacy.

Schmidt says the group is now focused on having AEDs installed in all public spaces, but notes that efforts have been partially stalled due to the pandemic.

“We have actually placed three AEDs in Tim Hortons restaurants, which is another thing we wanted to do because a Tim Hortons is located in every community everywhere, it’s kind of a focal point for communities,” Schmidt added.

Andrew’s Legacy is also supporting Bill 141, an Ontario act that aims to have public premises equipped with the machines.

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