Saving Lives One AED at a Time: The Power of Collaborative Impact 

 

Saving Lives One AED at a Time: The Power of Collaborative Impact 

Cara Schmidt (left) and Kathleen Pieszchala (right)

Cara

In 2015, Cara Schmidt was waiting in her car for the rain to subside while her son, Andrew, was playing soccer. When the rain stopped, she decided to go out and watch by the field, but quickly realized something was wrong.

“I noticed there was a kid down,” says Cara. “It was Andrew. All the kids started to get off the field and at that point I knew something terrible had happened.”

At only 15 years old, Andrew had suffered a sudden cardiac arrest and tragically did not survive.

“If there had been an AED present, he might still be with us today,” says Cara.

An AED, or Automatic External Defibrillator, is a portable emergency medical device used to diagnose and treat an irregular heartbeat following a sudden cardiac arrest. For every minute that a person’s heartbeat remains irregular, their chances of surviving are reduced by 7 to 10 per cent.

This tragedy inspired Cara to start a fund with the purpose of raising awareness and funds to purchase lifesaving AEDs for schools and other public spaces in the community. 

In order to really make an impact, Cara knew she needed to have charitable status. It was her lawyer who referred her to LCF, and with the help of Director of Philanthropy Diane Silva, Cara established Andrew Stoddart’s #11Forever fund. 

“We started our fund at LCF in October 2015 and Diane connected us with Bell Media,” says Cara, “They gave us a media sponsorship by November. My sister and I couldn’t believe it. This is not us leading our fund, this is God.”

Kathleen

In 2018, Kathleen Pieszchala heard about an AED that was stolen from a ballpark in Woodstock and felt compelled to help. 

“We had heard that an AED was stolen from a ballpark and we were devastated,” says Kathleen, “Who would steal that? There are kids that play ball out there. It was horrible.”

Kathleen’s fund, the Matthew Pieszchala Foundation, was started with her father as a way of giving back to the community and allowing her father’s legacy to live on after he passed away.

“One thing we really love about LCF is that it allows us to be flexible with our giving,” says Kathleen, “We don’t have a mandate saying we have to give to mental health or homelessness, we can choose. The stolen AED story pulled on our hearts, so we decided to do something.”

Collaboration & A Powerful Impact

Through LCF’s network, Kathleen was connected with Cara to organize a donation to the Woodstock ballpark. After learning that the city had already replaced the stolen AED, Cara and Kathleen focused their attention on another local organization - Youth for Christ (YFC). 

“I had been talking to James Coolidge from YFC,” says Cara, “He had mentioned that they needed AEDs for their Streetlight Mobile Youth Centre and for their building. So I emailed Kathleen.”

Kathleen was quick to agree and they got started on the project. 

“I thought it was a great way to help young people downtown,” says Kathleen, “We always like to pick initiatives that will have a high impact without a huge amount of money. This was a perfect opportunity.”

Together in October 2018, Cara and Kathleen donated two AEDs to Youth for Christ.

“We’ve donated 45 AEDs since Andrew passed away,” says Cara, “His legacy wouldn’t be what it is today without LCF and fundholders like Kathleen. This is something my sister and I do on the side, so to have LCF’s community knowledge, network, and experience available to us is invaluable.”

Cara hopes to eventually take her initiative nation-wide and change policies around the presence of AEDs across Canada.

“It is very important to us to keep Andrew’s name out there and to do God’s work,” says Cara, “Hopefully we can save a life that might not have been saved if Andrew hadn’t died.”