What inspires you as a professional in the advocacy realm?
Meeting someone who has survived sudden cardiac arrest, knowing that an automated external defibrillator (AED) saved their life. Also, knowing that the AED donations we have made to individuals, schools, police vehicles and organizations have influenced others to do more of the same.
Doing things that save lives and prevent family tragedies like we experienced with our son, Greg, who died at the age of fifteen after experiencing sudden cardiac arrest playing high school basketball.
How many years have you been heading the organization Gregory W. Moyer Defibrillator Fund?
We established the fund the night Greg died, 17 years ago.
Talk about your journey as a woman at the forefront of this cause and the challenges you faced along the way.
As you can imagine, I have heard every excuse of why a particular school district, organization, public building, business or the police can’t have AEDs. Excuses have been liability, funding, training, maintenance and the potential of an AED being stolen. When Pennsylvania school districts were given the opportunity to receive two AEDs, seven of them refused this opportunity. I called each of the superintendents and asked if I could answer any questions they had. If there was still hesitation, I asked if they would sign a statement stating they refused the donation. Needless to say, every district opted to take their free AEDs.
I have learned that with most schools, an AED has more impact if the students, teachers, administrators and staff are responsible for some part of the monetary cost. If they have a dress-down day, wearing red day or can buy an AED wrist bands they feel more a part of the cause.
Asking for money is not easy. We are constantly inundated with requests, but what makes it easier is having something tangible to show people, like their new AED and what their contribution has done.
Many people do not know that the PA State Police do not have AEDs in their vehicles that patrol the roads and highways, except for the Stroudsburg Barracks. We purchased, with the generous support of Mt. Pocono Rotary, enough this year and intend to help the PA State Police throughout the state get AEDs for all their cars.
Do you sit on any boards?
Besides the Greg Moyer Fund, I am on the Board of Ryan Gomes’ Hoops for Heart Health Organization. I have served on the Board and been an officer with Monroe County Children & Youth, Pocono Medical Center Auxiliary, American Cancer Society, Monroe County Historical Association and Shawnee Fire Company Auxiliary, PTO of Smithfield Elementary, Notre Dame of East Stroudsburg Booster Club and NY State United Teachers Union representative in Port Jervis, NY.
In what ways have you learned to become adaptable and flexible in managing this organization?
I find myself responding to preventable tragedies. I realize positive chains of events spring from these tragedies – people are educated and recruited to the cause, but we need to step back and develop a well-thought-out campaign to educate the general public and policymakers that is not driven/dependent on tragedies and celebrities. There is no reason why AEDs can’t become as common as fire extinguishers, seat belts and microwaves.
What is your advice to women seeking to rise and grow in their profession?
How would you define “success”?
Saving lives and knowing that we have placed AEDs where they have been successfully used or given a family the knowledge that everything was done to give their loved one a second chance. We might not be able to save everyone, but at least we tried.
What are your strengths?
The power to persuade, a tendency to be stubborn and persistent and being action-oriented. I don’t understand anyone’s reluctance toward placing AEDs in locations that have the potential of saving lives. I believe by talking to as many people as possible, we can make them proactive instead of reactive. AEDs are still not a household word. When you are an advocate, your responsibility is to educate and not assume that everyone is aware of your cause.
How do you develop yourself and continue to improve?
Remembering that in any conversation I have the potential to create a change agent to our cause, that AEDs belong in all public places. It is also critical to be educated about your cause and demonstrate your commitment by your actions.
What are the three biggest accomplishments in your life?
Besides my three children – Kate, Abbie, and Greg?
Our PA State Representative Kelly Lewis proposed HB 966, the first State AED Law, which gave every school district in PA at least two AEDs. This bill’s impact was so big that it actually reduced the cost of AEDs in this country by 50% and made it affordable. Rep. Kelly introduced this bill a month after Greg’s death and it passed unanimously on what should have been Greg’s 16th birthday.
As a teacher in New York, I persuaded the New York State United Teachers Union to support legislation for AEDs in all schools. Without its support, the bill would not have passed. I have also helped many parents throughout the country get AED state legislation for schools in their own state.
What are your “words to live by”?
Have a mission in life that helps others survive and pay it forward as best you can.
Develop a clear, compelling message, enlist a circle of friends to help, and start in your community and build out, using social media to reach a broader audience. Join or establish a group with common experiences and expand it to reach the national stage, and never stop.