Safety goals

New Jersey non-profit Heroes Foundation presents the Palmyra Riverton Soccer Club with an automated external defibrillator to be kept on site in case of emergency.

The Palmyra Riverton Soccer Club stands displaying the Heroes Foundation banner and their new automated external defibrillator before practice at Legion Field in Palmyra.

The Palmyra Riverton Soccer Club is all about fun and the love of the game, but when it comes to the safety of its athletes, it isn’t playing around.

“It’s on everybody’s mind,” said Tim Beck, president of the club.

This concern for players recently led South Jersey Soccer League board member Scott Hartman to send an application to the Heroes Foundation for an automated external defibrillator to keep on site at Legion Field, where the soccer club holds practice.

The foundation granted Hartman’s request, and, on Wednesday, March 27, Grace Nucifore, a representative from the foundation, showed up to Legion Field to present the club with its own AED.

“It’s just a positive for everybody to have something close and know where it is,” said Beck.

In their own words, “The Heroes Foundation NJ is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide the necessary tools and education to our communities in an effort to combat the loss of life through sudden cardiac arrest.”

To accomplish this mission, the organization provides life-saving equipment like AEDs and CPR training to sports teams or clubs who apply for them free of charge.

Heroes Foundation began three years ago with Peppi Dragotta, a father and soccer player who collapsed in 2015 from sudden cardiac arrest while playing with his son’s team. Although Dragotta ended up making a full recovery, the close call set him on a mission to ensure life-saving equipment is on hand when it’s needed in public areas like Legion Field.

The need for this kind of equipment made itself apparent at the first game Dragotta attended at Memorial Turf Field in Marlton following his recovery.

According to Nucifore, in an almost unbelievable coincidence, referee Craige Orr collapsed from sudden cardiac arrest during the game.

Luckily for Orr, Dragotta had checked for an on-site AED before the game and knew exactly where to run to retrieve it when it became apparent something was wrong. They were able to revive Orr right there on the field using the emergency equipment, quite possibly saving his life.

“He was able to give back after someone saved his life. He was able to do that for Craige,” said Nucifore.

“He was in the right place at the right time with the right awareness and background,” said Hartman.

In addition to soccer, Legion Field hosts softball, baseball and football teams. According to Hartman, the AED will be available to anyone using the space.

While rare, emergency situations can occur in almost any sport or physical activity.

“With something like baseball, if a kid gets hit with a hard pitch in the chest it can send them into sudden cardiac arrest right away, so it’s not just older people or those more susceptible to an illness,” said Hartman.

For more information on the Heroes Foundation, visit heroesfoundationnj.com.