CHATHAM, NJ - The Chatham Jaycees presented its "Distinguished Service Award' to David and Joanne Babbitt on Tuesday night and the timing couldn't have been better.
The award was presented soon after the New Jersey Senate and Assembly each passed legislation that will require all charter and public schools to include CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation) and AED (Automated External Defibrillator) training as part of the health curriculum.
The bill passed 39-1 in the senate and 77-0 in the assembly. The Babbitt's "John Taylor Babbitt" Foundation, named after their son who died suddenly from an undiagnosed heart condition, helped push for the legislation along with the American Heart Association.
According to the AHA, a victim’s chance of survival can double or triple if a bystander immediately provides CPR effectively. However, only 32 percent of cardiac arrest victims are able to receive CPR from a CPR-educated bystander.
"Now it's on Gov. Christie's desk to be signed," Joanne Babbitt said. "It basically makes CPR and AED training a mandatory part of health education. Right now, it's not required in school.
"Even the health teacher in Chatham says that it is mentioned, but it isn't taught. Hands-on CPR will be part of the curriculum in every public high school. We had Chatham students testifying in Trenton before the Senate committee and the assembly."
Chatham resident Kate Roland, a junior at Villa Walsh Academy, and Elise Corasaniti and I am a senior at Chatham High School, each testified in Trenton in favor of the law.
"Over the past 10 years in Chatham, two of my brothers’ friends have passed away due to sudden cardiac arrests. I had seen the impact of the deaths on the community and how aware Chatham became. I go to a school that draws girls from all over northern New Jersey, and I wanted to spread this awareness as far as possible," Roland, said. "The number of student athletes is over 80% at my school and those are the young adults most at risk of dying from cardiac arrest. Not only did I want my classmates to know what to do if someone had a sudden cardiac arrest in their hometown, but also at school or at a sports game and know how to respond appropriately."
Corasaniti is the president of the John Taylor Babbitt Heart Club at Chatham High School.
"There has been, unfortunately, multiple deaths in Chatham in the last few years due to sudden cardiac arrest, two of whom were very good friends with my two older siblings," Corasaniti said. "Chatham has become a much more heart safe town after these tragic incidents. However, without knowledge of how to use the multiple AEDs around town, many would not know what to do in a time of emergency. This includes myself as well, without my lifeguard training and certification, I would not know CPR or what to do if one went into cardiac arrest. The health class curriculum at my school does not focus on CPR."
In addition to honoring the Babbitts, the Jaycees handed out their annual charitable grants to local organizations.
Chatham Jaycees presented donations to the following organizations: Project Graduation, Chatham Community Band, Library of the Chathams, Chatham Community Players, The Senior Services, Stanley Nursery School, Chatham Methodist Nursey School, St. Pat's Youth Ministry, Milton Avenue PTO, Washington Avenue PTO, Chatham Emergency Squad, Chatham Fire Department, Boy Scout Troop #28, Chatham Community Garden, Chatham Bee Club, Historical Society - Borough, Historical Society - Township, RISE, Chatham Cares & Shares, Senior High Fellowship, Chatham Borough Shade Trees, Chatham Stem, Chatham Borough Environmental Commission, Chatham Spring Clean, Chatham Farmer's Market, Chatham White Lights, Town & Country Garden Club, ECLC School, and Mother's Morning Out.
Grant recipients also included Education Trust (5,000) and the Presbyterian Church ($5,000)