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Four years later: Playing for Jake

Keeley Higley, Staff Writer

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In 2013, while at football practice, LPHS junior Jake West collapsed. He was rushed to the hospital, where he later passed away that night.

West was a star football and lacrosse player, a great student, and an outstanding citizen. He also suffered from right ventricular cardiomyopathy, or an enlarged heart. The condition, which led to his collapse and untimely death, was undiagnosed for his 17 years of life.

Now, four years later, West’s legacy lives on through the Play for Jake Foundation, which screens children for heart conditions similar to the one that afflicted West.

“Our foundation is focusing on being proactive and offering these free [heart screening] tests to all students 12 and older. The foundation has been hard at work to develop their own screening program.  Our plans are to continue to grow Jake’s cardiac program and provide free ECG’s (electrocardiography tests) and echo’s (echocardiograms) for students in the school setting,” Julie Schroeder, West’s mother and founder of the Play for Jake Foundation, said.

For nearly four years, the foundation has been at work.

“We have screened two schools through Jake’s Cardiac Program, and we have a screening on November 14th at Bremen High School.  We plan to sit down in the month of December to schedule more schools in the spring,” Schroeder said.

On Saturday, October 21st, the Play for Jake Foundation was again at work with the mission of proactively diagnosing heart conditions.

“The Kiwanis Club of LaPorte held their 5th Annual Heart Run/Walk at Legacy Hills Golf Course, with all proceeds going to The Play for Jake Foundation to provide more free heart screenings,” Schroeder said.  

The event was a perfect opportunity for the county to show support, both for the young man lost to the heart condition and for the cause itself.

“I ran for the cause, of course; the $26 we pay to run goes right back to the foundation, but I also ran in support of my friend and his family. Others should join us in contributing because, by our donations, we are helping save other kids’ lives! The money we raise for the Play for Jake Foundation goes towards things like buying AEDs for schools and activity buildings, helps fund the free heart screenings, and helps spread awareness to other schools and people about undetected heart conditions,” Gabrielle Leal, runner at the 5th Annual Heart Run/Walk, said.

The run from this past weekend is just one way in which the foundation raises funds.

“There are a few other ways I help contribute to the P4J foundation, and others can, too! Every year we host an annual golf outing at Legacy Hills. At this outing, we also have a silent auction, and we usually do very well! We also sell shirts, bracelets, and other miscellaneous items that you can wear and put places in honor of Jake and to spread awareness about the foundation and the cause,” Leal said.

The money raised at the Play For Jake events is used to provide free heart screenings, but it is also used to buy AEDs, or automated external defibrillators, for schools and sports facilities.

“The foundation has two college Play for Jake Clubs that are raising awareness of undetected heart conditions and raising funds to place AED’s on their campus. Both Purdue and IU have their own clubs. Purdue has already placed 2 AED’s on their campus, and IU is getting ready to place one on their campus,” Schroeder said.

The goals of the foundation keep the community motivated to continue.

“No child should die due to the lack of testing. Lives would be saved if we screened every child’s heart, just like we give shots, test their vision and hearing. Not enough is being done, so as a foundation, we hope to screen as many as we can. Our hope is one day our medical field will take notice and realize the importance of screening every child,” Schroeder said.

Though it has been four years since West’s passing, his legacy will live on through the Play for Jake foundation.  

To learn more about heart screenings, heart conditions, or donate to the cause, visit www.playforjake.org.  

 

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About the Writer
Keeley Higley, Staff Writer

Meet Keeley Higley, a senior staff member. She has two sisters and enjoys writing. Keeley plans to go to college to major in communications. She has been part of the Student Advisory Board for two years and 4-H for 10 years. Following her mother’s advice, Keeley tries to be inspired by actions and not people. She likes to eat salad and says that Panera is the best.

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Four years later: Playing for Jake