What started out as a tragedy has transformed into a multitude of lives being saved.
On September 25th, 2013, football player Jake West collapsed at practice due to an undetected heart condition and later passed away. This calamity shook the town and left everyone feeling unsure and nervous; however, six years later, his mother Julie Schroeder remembers West by spreading information and fighting to ensure that what happened to Jake does not happen to anyone else.
“After losing Jake, my family and I were sitting around in such disbelief and pain that we said we needed to make sure this didn’t happen to other families, and that’s how it started,” Schroeder said.
Schroeder began working on a foundation to prevent Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Dysplasia (ARVD) from affecting anyone else. They filed for a non-profit status for the Play for Jake Foundation in 2014 and have been working hard ever since.
After the creation of the foundation, one of the first missions was to raise awareness for ARVD. LaPorte, New Prairie, and South Central High School held heart screenings that were available for all students, and Boston and Kesling Middle School also held screenings for their students.
“Our main goal is to one day see that all children have the opportunity to get their hearts screened. We screen hearing and vision, but why aren’t we screening their hearts?” Schroeder asks.
Until that goal is accomplished, the Play For Jake Foundation plans on screening as many children as possible and doing what they can to encourage parents to make sure their children are screened.
The Play For Jake Foundation has been making large strides especially as of lately. New Prairie High School has been added to the foundation’s screening schedule for the 2019/2020 school year. They are also currently working on a date for LaPorte High School. Both schools are planned to be introduced to a program to help keep their students safe.
“Our schools and everyone in them need to know what to do in case of a sudden cardiac emergency,” Schroeder said.
To add onto that, the foundation partnered up with Fransician Health and Bolt for the Heart to raise money to put automated external defibrillators (AEDs) in all of LaPorte County’s police vehicles. To raise the necessary funds, a 5K family walk/run will be held on September 8th at Washington Park. It will be held annually–this year being the first. Interested runners can sign up on secure.getmeregistered.com.
Since Jake’s passing, the foundation has screened many students and have been able to prevent ARVD from taking more lives. Jake’s own sister, Courtney West, was screened after Jake’s death due to a doctor’s recommendation and was found to have the same undetected disease, ARVD. Courtney underwent surgery at a hospital in Chicago.
The foundation can be found on Facebook at Play for Jake Foundation, on Instagram @playforjakefoundation, on Twitter @playforjake, and at playforjake.org.