By April Bourie
When Steve Gootter set out for his jog on the morning of Feb. 10, 2005, his family expected his return within the hour. Tragically, it was the last time they saw him. He collapsed and died from sudden cardiac arrest that morning.
There had been no previous indications that Gootter had any cardiac issues. He was a non-smoking, athletic and healthy 42-year-old man who had a zest for life and family and no history of heart disease.
His family and friends were devastated, but they decided to make something positive out of this tragedy by establishing the Steven M. Gootter Foundation. “We created the foundation to make sure that families like ours would not suffer from such a tragic event,” said Andrew Messing, Gootter’s brother-in-law and president of the Steven M. Gootter Foundation. “If we could lose Steve, it could really happen to anybody.”
To support its activities, the Gootter Foundation holds a variety of fundraisers, including the Gootter Grand Slam Gala, which because of the COVID-19 pandemic, will be streamed online on Friday, April 30. The event will include powerful survivor stories and information on current research. The event is free to watch, and donations will be accepted. Access to an online recording of the event will be available afterwards.
One of the most popular aspects of the gala is the auction, which will be held online from April 20 to May 2. “Our auction is famous for having items that are exclusive to the Gootter Foundation,” said Claudine Messing, Gootter’s sister and VP of the Gootter Foundation. “This year we are offering a vintage two-seater Mercedes convertible in addition to other unique items.” The auction is open to everyone, not just those who view the gala.
The foundation raises funds to increase awareness of sudden cardiac death, provide education on the use of CPR and automatic external defibrillators (AEDs) and to fund research to cure the disease. The foundation heavily promotes the University of Arizona’s Sarver Heart Center CPR classes and has distributed more than 350 AEDs throughout the greater Tucson community.
The foundation provides research seed grants to young investigators at the Sarver Heart Center and Stanford University’s Cardiovascular Institute. These researchers often struggle to get funding for their work because they don’t have as much experience as those with doctorates. These grants often lead to additional grants from other funding organizations. The Gootter Foundation’s half million dollars in funding to the UArizona alone has led to an additional $7 million from the National Institutes of Health and the American Heart Association.
The Gootter Foundation also recently became the leading funder of a new heart simulator at the Sarver Heart Center. “The simulator makes it easier to train doctors without having to practice on real patients, and allows doctors to perform more complex procedures to save patients who have suffered from cardiac arrest,” Andrew said.
At press time, the foundation announced it had been awarded a trio of significant grants to expand donations of AEDs throughout Southern Arizona. Those included a $25,000 grant from Fiesta Bowl Charities, a $4,000 grant from the Sundt Foundation and a $5,000 grant from the Million Dollar Round Table.
Gala and auction organizers hope to raise $250,000. “The Tucson community has been very supportive of our efforts, and we hope they continue to be,” said Claudine. “Sudden cardiac death doesn’t take a break, and our work is more important now than ever.”
GOOTTER FOUNDATION GRAND SLAM GALA Friday, April 30, 6 p.m. Auction April 20-May 2 Watch live online or a recorded version after the event Watching is free and donations will be accepted stevengootterfoundation.org (520) 615-6430