Monday Morning Quarterback

Last weekend, the NFL kicked off its season. This unleashed the fury on sports talk radio all over the country – who’s going to win it all, who should be fired, who’s the best ever, and so on. It’s called Monday Morning Quarterbacking – utilizing hindsight to analyze, evaluate and critique.

Today, is my annual “Monday.” One year ago, the Board hired me as Executive Director of Simon’s Fund. At the time, I was juggling the responsibilities of the Fund on nights and weekends. I had another job. Under that scheme, the Fund was able to host a fundraiser, conduct some heart screenings, and get a law passed in Pennsylvania. As an organization, we wondered what was possible if I could devote all of my focus on Simon’s Fund. I had doubts and reservations. It was a big undertaking. It was incredibly personal.

In one year, Simon’s Fund has risen to a new level. This, in and of itself, is not terribly important. What’s important is that awareness about sudden cardiac arrest and death in children has been taken to a new level. Take a look back with us.

1.  Last week, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Prevention Act. Almost 400,000 high school student athletes, their parents and coaches, will know about the threat of sudden cardiac arrest.  This is combined with the 400,000 students and families from Pennsylvania. The bill is still pending in six other states.

2.  We produced PSA videos with Dana Vollmer, four time Olympic gold medalist, and Ronny Turiaf, NBA Champion.  We were also covered by Sanjay Gupta on CNN, USA Today and People Magazine.

3.  Simon’s Fund will be hosting two new events this year:  Simon Says Run: A 5K for kids’ hearts; and Simon Says Golf: An outing for kids’ hearts.  A big thanks to John Savoy and Neal Rutman for spearheading these events.

4.  We funded a research study with the NCAA that provides heart screenings to NCAA Athletes. The research is being led by Dr. Jon Drezner. Dr. David Shipon, our CMO, will play a role too.

5.  We created a medical network of cardiologists from most of the major Philadelphia institutions:  Abington Memorial Hospital, Jefferson University Hospitals, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children, Nemours/AI duPont, Einstein Hospital and Main Line Health. This level of collaboration between hospitals is so unique and we are inspired by the collective and selfless effort of the physicians in this group.

6.  We launched an app that makes the screening process paperless and facilitates the easy collection and storage of screening data.  A big thanks to Rose and Ivan at Haverford College.

7.  We are working with an international company to develop the first Youth EKG Registry. Can you believe that there is not a place for researchers to go and study student EKGs?  This will be a game changer.

8.  In October, we will launch, a site dedicated to promoting all of the organizations in this country that provide youth heart screenings.  This will change the discussion around heart screenings in this country.

9.  In May, we will host our first ever Mother’s Day heart screening. Sudden cardiac arrest is not just an adult thing and if we want to prevent it, we need to do more than go red for women. We need women to protect themselves and their children. We’re going Krimson for Kids.

10. Finally, we have five screenings scheduled for this fall – one of which is a return trip to Atlanta following our successful Final Four screening.  Screenings are our core – we will always check hearts and save lives.

In short, it’s been an incredible year, and I am so grateful to be in this role.  I can’t believe I ever had doubts. I love working with our dedicated board. I love collaborating with the best doctors in the country. I love persevering with other amazing organizations across this country. I love bringing awareness to the community with the support of friends, family and donors. I love seeing Sally and Jaden process their brother’s death and appreciate his life.  I love building something very special with my wife, Phyllis, for our son, Simon.

I know that checking students hearts will become a standard of care one day soon. I also know that if Bob Geldof had walked in my shoes this past year, he would have never written the song “I Don’t Like Mondays.”