By Riley Manning
TUPELO – The death of a classmate is a tragedy not soon forgotten.
Six years ago, sixth-grader Weston Reed collapsed while playing soccer, and though physicians present performed CPR, Reed died before emergency services could arrive and utilize the automated external defibrillator that would have saved his life.
In the wake of his son’s death, Weston’s father, Lee Reed, started the Weston Reed Foundation, which raised funds to install AEDs in Tupelo schools and sports fields. The foundation also provided CPR training and health screenings for athletes before they take the field.
This year, four of Reed’s classmates, Kyle Holliman, Hayden Buckley, Sarah Howell, and Mary Dawson Buskirk, are honoring him with their senior project: the drafting of a bill making AEDs mandatory in schools statewide.
“Weston would have graduated with us this year,” Holliman said. “He was friends with all of us, so we have a special place in our hearts for him. You’ve probably seen the AEDs around town, but outside of Tupelo there are places that still don’t have them.”
Holliman said the group had worked closely with state Sen. Nancy Collins to draft and revise a bill to provide AEDs. Collins said working with the group has been a pleasure.
“I thought it was a wonderful way to pay tribute to Weston,” Collins said. “And it lets the seniors do something to be actively involved with state government and see concrete results.”
The group held a three-quarter-mile fun run Tuesday night to raise awareness about sudden cardiac death. Reed’s father addressed the crowd of runners and supporters before the race.
“I’m touched by the fact that Weston is still remembered by his classmates,” he said. “With their help, the Weston Reed Foundation has tested more than 2,000 athletes for heart problems and trained countless numbers in CPR. I really appreciate their willingness to work with this.”