By Dawn Krebs
ST. LUCIE COUNTY - A local nonprofit organization is asking student athletes to "know their hearts."
A special heart screening being conducted by a local nonprofit might save the life of a student athlete this year.
Called "Know Your Heart: 2nd annual Student Screening," the event will take place from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 20 at the Port St. Lucie Community Center in Port St. Lucie.
It is being put on by the Jessica Clinton M.V.P. Foundation, which was formed by the family of Jessica, a 17-year-old senior at Centennial High School who died on Oct. 2, 2003 from a hidden heart condition.
"It takes me about nine months to get all this organized," said Cheryl Lalloo, Jessica's mother and founder of the nonprofit organization. "This is my full-time job now."
The foundation has worked since Jessica's death to make sure every school has an automated external defibrillator, a device used to shock the heart. Now, every school in the county has between one and five defibrillators at every school.
The first year the heart screening was held, more than 200 students came to be tested.
"We had people coming in from as far away as Lake Worth," Ms. Lalloo said. "We found 18 students that had issues that didn't know they had."
Now, this year's event is bigger than ever. The screening will offer not only blood pressure and electrocardiogram screenings, but an echocardiogram screening, as well. In addition, the event is open to all students and is free to all who preregister.
"Last year, we realized that we had people with more than one child, but could only afford to have the one in athletics tested," she said. "We would go ahead and sponsor the rest of the children in the family. So this year, it's free."
Normally, these types of screenings can cost up to $1,000.
Interested students are asked to register for the screening ahead of time.
The foundation is looking for anyone who would like to volunteer to help on that day with registrations, refreshments or assisting the nurses.
"We've had so much help this year," Ms. Lalloo said. "We've come such a long way in nine years. It's wonderful how many people want to help."
This year, parents will receive copies of the results they can take to whichever physician they want, and Anthony Lewis, a Port St. Lucie cardiologist, will be on hand the entire day to answer questions for parents.
"This is for all students, not just for athletes," Ms. Lalloo said. "You read more about the athletes because they are out there being physical, but it can happen to any child, and I want to test them all. I wouldn't have it any other way."
The Know Your Heart second annual Student Screening will be held from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Oct. 20 at the Port St. Lucie Community Center, 2195 S.E. Airoso Blvd. in Port St. Lucie.
Preregistration is required, and parents can preregister students at www.stayclassy.org/jessicaclinton. For more information, call (772) 215-1912.