Foundation Raises Record $500,000 – Provides Life-Saving Devices, Supports Research

By Eric Swedlund –

The Steven M. Gootter Foundation, dedicated to preventing death from sudden cardiac arrest, is putting lifesaving devices in the hands of Tucson police officers.

Since minutes – and even seconds – count when a person experiences a sudden cardiac event, the Gootter Foundation is donating 50 automated external defibrillators to the Tucson Police Department.

Police often are first on the scene when a cardiac event occurs and trained officers with AEDs in patrol cars can provide a greater chance for patients to survive a sudden cardiac event, said Gootter Foundation President Andrew Messing.

“We’re really excited about the donation to TPD. It makes sense for our police cars to be equipped with these lifesaving devices,” Messing said. “I really think we have the opportunity to make Tucson a model city for the rest of the country. The more AEDs we place in our community, in locations where they are most likely to be used, the better the odds are that lives will be saved.”

The donation of 50 AEDs, at a cost of $100,000, extends a strong five-year track record in which the Gootter Foundation has distributed more than 50 other AEDs to schools, churches, recreational centers and other public spaces across Southern Arizona. With each AED donation, the Gootter Foundation provides training on the use of the devices and on continuous chest compression CPR.

The Gootter Foundation, with a mission of both research support and public education about sudden cardiac death, began in memory of Steven Mark Gootter. A vibrant and athletic 42-year-old, he woke early on Feb. 10, 2005, and as usual took his morning jog. Gootter, a non-smoker with no history of heart disease and no prior warnings, died of sudden cardiac arrest.
In 2012, the Gootter Foundation reached its goal of $2 million to establish an endowed chair at the Sarver Heart Center. The University of Arizona recruited Dr. Jil Tardiff to fill the position, researching sudden cardiac arrest. The foundation also continues to invest in research through investigator awards that enable scientists to pursue promising research ideas with the hope that the early data they obtain will enable them to compete for national grants.

Much of the foundation’s fundraising comes via the Gootter Grand Slam, an annual tennis tournament and gala dinner. This year’s event – the ninth – raised a record for the foundation, more than $500,000.

Held in March, the Grand Slam for the first time featured former female tennis pros,with two-time U.S. Open singles champ Tracy Austin and multiple Grand Slam and Olympic champion Gigi Fernandez joining 1993 French Open doubles champions Murphy and Luke Jensen. Arizona Wildcat football coach Rich Rodriguez also attended as both a competitor and chair umpire.

“The tennis event is great fun. (Coach Rodriguez) has a tremendous personality and he can play, too. He has a great time and gets the crowd into it,” Messing said.
At the gala, the Gootter Foundation awarded Humberto and Czarina Lopez with its 2014 Philanthropic Award.

“The Lopezes were truly deserving of our Philanthropic Award as they do so much for the Tucson community. They embraced the Gooter Foundation’s mission and were instrumental in our record year of fundraising,” Messing said.

With the endowed chair already in place, the foundation for the past two years has been able to make grants directly to the Sarver Heart Center’s Resuscitation Research Lab, this year giving $150,000 for research. Like with the investigator awards, the grants are seed money to push research to the point the scientists are competitive for grants from the National Institutes of Health and American Heart Association.

“Steve was an inventor. To be able to fund young investigators is important to us because it’s something we know Steve would appreciate. In the spirit of who he was, we’re following that mission,” Messing said.

The Gootter Foundation maintains programs in public outreach on continuous chest compression, developed at the Sarver Heart Center. Public service announcements featuring former UA basketball greats Channing Frye and Steve Kerr have aired during Phoenix Suns and Arizona Wildcat basketball games.

“It’s a great way when you’ve got a captive audience to teach them about continuous chest compression. We call it the chain of survival. The more people who know how to save a life, the greater the outcome will be for victims,” Messing said.

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