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'I don't want another mother to get the call I got:' Mom honors son by donating AEDs to local parks

A Gwinnett County mom is honoring her son's memory by campaigning for more AEDs in parks.
Credit: Lucas, Liza
Photo: Michelle Wilson

GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. -- Nick Blakely's passion was football. Just ask his mom, Michelle Wilson.

"Nick's probably in heaven having a football game with God," she said.

On August 28, 2018, Nick's dreams of playing for the NFL and working at the Federal Reserve were cut short, after the 19-year-old collapsed after football practice at Stetson University in Florida. His family was unaware he had an enlarged heart, which prompted his sudden cardiac arrest.

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In the year following her son's death, Wilson has found a mission: saving lives through heart screenings and saving lives through Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs).

The "Smiling Hearts: The Nick Blakely Foundation" now seeks to spread awareness, offer free heart screenings for students as well as raise money for AEDs for Gwinnett County Parks.

Wilson has also donated AEDs to Rhodes Jordan Park in Lawrenceville, where Nick played youth football.

"This [AED] is definitely a blessing because it kind of walks you through the process and hopefully is a whole lot easier," said Doug Washington with the Lawrenceville Youth Football Program. "Hopefully, you don't have to use it but it's here if you have to."

Gwinnett County has 38 AEDs at 22 manned facilities such as community centers and aquatic centers, rental facilities, as well as two mobile units for special events, a county spokesperson said.

County staff are trained to operate the life-saving devices.

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However, not all parks have staffed facilities and -- a result -- may lack AEDs on site. Local youth athletic associations may run sports leagues from some of the unmanned sports fields.

"You just can't imagine it being your kid," Washington said. "Depending on where you're from and what you have access to, a lot of times you just don't know about these [screenings] or what you need to get done to make sure everything is on the up and up." Williams said Blakely's death has made his program more aware of the easy access for AEDs and awareness education.

"I need more of the community to rally for the parks. They have kids playing, but you need an AED there," Wilson told 11Alive. "I didn't know to come and say 'Hey, where's your AED? Do you have an emergency plan?' We have to be more knowledgeable. I don't want another mother to get the call I got."

A free "Protect this Heart" screening for kids ages 12-19 is happening in Lawrenceville on Sept. 16., from 9am to 3pm at 755 Walther Rd NW. Click here for further details.

Wilson told 11Alive she also plans to continue advocating for House Bill 743 "Jeremy Nelson and Nick Blakely Sudden Cardiac Arrest Prevention Act."

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