Ralph Maccarone and his organization Who We Play For are returning to Fort Lewis College to hold a second heart screening event from 8 to 11 a.m. Saturday.
The noninvasive electrocardiograms, which cost $20 unless financial assistance is requested, take only five minutes and are intended to catch underlying cardiac conditions that often go undetected until sudden cardiac arrest occurs.
Who We Play For is working in partnership with area school districts, Mercy Hospital and the Pagosa Springs Medical Center. The organization will conduct screenings at the Pagosa Springs Middle School on Friday before setting up shop at the college on Saturday morning.
Students from all over La Plata County, including Bayfield and Ignacio, are invited to get screened and may sign up on the spot or online ahead of time. The event is targeted at students ages 10 through 20, however students in college are also invited to participate.
Maccarone said he hopes to conduct between 75 and 100 screenings at this year’s event.
“Preparation is key, and preventive care is always a good thing,” Maccarone said, summing up his pitch to students.
The organization was founded in 2012 by Maccarone and some friends of his son, Rafe Maccarone. In 2007, the 15-year old experienced sudden cardiac arrest while warming up with his soccer team and died a day later. It was later determined that he had hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a detectable heart condition of which the first symptom is often death.
“In our son's case, until an event happens in a community, the awareness is just not there,” Maccarone said. “It can happen to anyone.”
Maccarone and Who We Play For won a $100,000 award from the NASCAR Foundation in November for their work. The money is allowing them to provide free screenings for those who require financial assistance and will go toward assisting with expensive follow up care for those who require it.
Sudden cardiac arrest captured national attention when Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin collapsed on the field during a football game on Jan. 2 when his heart stopped. He has since made an unlikely recovery.
“There's steps that we can take ahead of time to be proactive and give students and families awareness to avoid any surprises throughout the season or throughout their playing career,” said Ryan Knorr, district athletics and activities director for Durango School District 9-R. “... It is important to be as proactive and informative as we can for student athletes.”
More information can be found at www.whoweplayfor.org.