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Family's loss sparks life-saving campaign page 3
North Stafford parents cite the death of their daughter and ask that all teachers in Stafford be certified in CPR

 A photo of Gwyneth Griffin and some of her personal items are kept together as family keepsakes. The teenager died after she collapsed outside a Stafford middle school.
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Date published: 10/1/2012


Virginia code requires that in each public school building, two people be certified in first-aid and CPR every two years. With hundreds of students in each of Stafford County's schools, the Griffins worry the requirement is too minimal to be effective.

The American Heart Association encourages anyone working with children to be properly trained in CPR.

Since Gwyneth's collapse, most of the staff at Garrisonville Elementary and A.G. Wright Middle schools have learned CPR, along with many of Gwyneth's friends. Students in the graduating class of 2017 made a pact to be CPR certified before they receive their diplomas.

For principal Boatwright, offering classes to the community makes sense.

"It's something I've been thinking about for a while," said Boatwright, who performed CPR on a custodian who was having a heart attack at the school several years ago.

He's working with Mark Doyle of the county's fire and rescue department to offer reduced-price classes, perhaps on Saturdays.

"The students asked about it--I had never thought about it for students," Boatwright said. "They wanted something tangible they could do to contribute to the community and remember their classmate in a positive way."

But the Griffins say the students shouldn't have to carry that weight at school.

"We can't stop children from getting sick and hurt. We can't stop children from dying. But we can improve individuals' ability to respond appropriately and in a timely manner," said Joel, 38, co-founder of Rosslyn-based Dependable Global Solutions, a defense contractor.

Jennifer, 42, teaches at Red Apple Preschool, and used to work in the county schools, so the Griffins know the pressures that teachers face. Teachers can't be superheroes, the couple noted--they're already stretched to act as social workers, parents, educators and psychologists.

The Griffins want to make CPR courses count toward teacher re-certification.

Ultimately, they want "Gwyneth's Law" to save the lives of children or adults in schools. In addition to CPR certification for all staff that interact with students, they are pushing for further requirements. They include:

Establish a rapid response team in each school for emergencies. The team, which would have emergency training, would provide relief until EMTs arrive.

Modify existing drills to include CPR exercises, which could be needed after tornado and fire situations.

Require AEDs--or automated external defibrillators--in all schools, and train teachers how to use them.

Incorporate CPR training into curriculum for students.

"If we just do little things to save people's lives, that would make Gwyneth happy to have something done that helps someone else," Joel Griffin said. "She would have been overjoyed."

Katie Thisdell: 540/735-1975
Email: kthisdell@freelancestar.com

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Susan Hulsey, a CPR instructor in Stafford, hopes more people learn life-saving techniques. She has been offering reduced-rate classes in memory of Gwyneth Griffin, who was in her son's elementary school classes. She said Gwyneth had a "smile that could light up the world" and was her son's first crush.

Most of the fees she collects have gone to Ronald McDonald House Charities in Richmond and to VCU Medical Center.

She offers reduced rates "so that scout leaders, coaches, nursery volunteers will come and get certified, even if it isn't required."

The American Red Cross offers regular CPR classes at its Rappahannock Area Chapter offices. The American Heart Association also offers classes at the Mary Washington Hospital.

Stafford's Fire & Rescue Department is partnering with A.G. Wright Middle School to provide low-cost classes to students, their families and other community organizations. Plans are still in the works.