The generosity of our community and the giving spirit of Scripps Ranch were present before anyone had ever heard of Oprah's Big Give. One example of our desire to help others was ignited in May 2007 by a united effort of friends from Miramar Ranch Elementary School (MRE). From one great idea, another was born. Let me explain.

Who can resist the temptation to raise your hand and join the excitement of a live auction? Six MRE families agreed, when last year they collectively ignored all reason and became the high bidders at the 2007 MRE Spring Gala. The hot auction item that fueled the frenzy was a backyard concert with one of San Diego's favorite local bands, The Heroes. What started as a little idea to have a summer party soon turned into an opportunity to bring friends together to support a local philanthropy, San Diego Project Heart Beat.

Thanks to the efforts of the six families--Jenn and Sean Blake, Katie and Dennis Falkowski, Kim and Steve Polaski, Laura and Jeff Sleet, Karen and Oscar Ocskasy, and Amy and Dave Martin--who embraced the idea with enthusiasm, a goal was created. The objective: raise enough money to purchase Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) for each Scripps Ranch public school.

With the help of those who contributed to the fun and donations, $21,000 was raised for the Ron McElliott Memorial Fund. This memorial fund is in honor of my father, who passed away in 1999 from sudden cardiac arrest just after finishing a 10K race. The fund works directly with San Diego Project Heart Beat to place AEDs in identified areas of need. Through generous donations of residents and the Scripps Ranch Civic Association, we raised $11,000. Then, my mom matched funds up to $10,000 for a combined total of $21,000.

As of April 2008, the goal was achieved with the placement of 10 AEDs at the Scripps Ranch public schools: one at each of the four elementary schools; two at Marshall Middle School; and, three at Scripps Ranch High School. One AED also was donated to Mira Mesa High School. The AEDs are in the following locations at the schools:

  • SRHS: Nurses office, gym, and supply room;
  • MMS: Theater and either in the main office or in the PE locker room;
  • Dingeman: Front office near the access doors to the health office and workroom;
  • EBS: Health office;
  • Jerabek: Main office right next to the main counter; and,
  • MRE: Currently in the PE bungalow (B22) on the playground. May be moved to the nurse's office.

San Diego Project Heart Beat's mission is to save lives by establishing awareness, education, and immediate access to AEDs throughout the city and county of San Diego. Project Heart Beat has one goal: to save lives of sudden cardiac arrest victims through early defibrillation. AEDs must be as accessible as fire extinguishers in our communities. Why schools, why children?

More than 6,000 children die each year from sudden cardiac arrest (SCA), many while at school. To increase public awareness of SCA in children and avoid tragedy, we must emphasize the importance of having AEDs readily available on school campuses in our community. AEDs can restore a normal heart rhythm in individuals suffering from SCA.

Studies show that the survival rate from SCA increases 50-70% when an AED is available and used on a victim within three to five minutes from the onset of sudden cardiac arrest. By implementing an AED program in our schools, we have encouraged positive change. Our campuses are now better prepared because they have these devices.

Anyone can use these devices. In fact, AEDs were specifically manufactured for the untrained layperson. The unit itself talks the first responder through the simple steps to activate and assist during the time paramedics are on the way.

It would be an oversight not to mention the tremendous contributions San Diego Project Heart Beat has made in San Diego over the past seven years, since its inception in 2001. The most significant is that 48 lives have been saved by the AEDs placed throughout our city.

It is in honor of my dad, Ron McElliott, and through the tireless efforts of my mom, Karen McElliott, and the staff of San Diego Project Heart Beat that the family and friends of these SCA victims were saved the heartache of losing a loved one. Much like a drop of water on a pond makes endless circles, the effects of these lifesaving devices touch many lives. To learn more about San Diego Project Heart Beat, please visit [].

Jennifer Blake

On the Newsletter front cover, L to R: SRCA president Gordon Boerner, SRHS nurse and Scripps Ranch resident Kathy Harkey (holding one of three AEDs located on the SRHS campus), SRHS principal Donna Campbell, and the author of this article and chief fundraiser Jennifer Blake.