WNBA star Tina Charles visits 4 NY schools to donate AEDs
By DOUG FEINBERG
NEW YORK (AP) Tina Charles went back to school this week.
The New York Liberty forward was spending Wednesday and Thursday at four local schools helping educate kids about CPR, nutrition and concussions as part of Hopey's Heart week.
Her foundation , Hopey's Heart, honors her aunt, Maureen "Hopey" Vaz, who died of multiple organ failure in 2013. It also honors Wes Leonard, a high school basketball player in Michigan who died in 2011 of sudden cardiac arrest after hitting the game-winning shot for his team.
"I never wanted to be an athlete that never gave back to the community. I never wanted to have that label by my name," Charles said on Wednesday morning at the Thurgood Marshall Academy Lower School. "I'm really big about giving back and helping others and being a servant onto others, that's what it's about to me. The fact we can raise awareness and that kids know what sudden cardiac arrest is and what an AED is and how to use it is great."
Charles partnered with Safe Kids Worldwide to put on the demonstrations that included the kids wearing concussion goggles to simulate what it feels like to have the head injury.
"Our first event with Tina was two years ago at one school," said Ali Flury, who is the Sports Safety Manager at Safe Kids Worldwide. "It's grown to two days, four events. I know next year she's hoping to hit every borough. It's incredible to see the reach is growing exponentially every year. It's amazing. Her interaction with the kids goes so far. When they get to interact with her and ask her questions, it drives it home."
After the demos were over, Charles took questions from the students that ranged from how tall she is - 6-foot-3 - to who her favorite NBA team is (the Knicks.) The students also seemed up on their college basketball, knowing that Charles went to UConn and that the current Huskies had a 111-game winning streak end at the Final Four.
"She's hands on," said Dawn Brooks DeCosta, who is the principal of Thurgood Marshall Academy Lower School. "She really has a connection with the students. It's good for them to see leaders who look like them and are familiar with the community so that they can see success."
Charles started the foundation in April 2013 and has donated over 260 automatic external defibrillators. She donated all of her salary from the Liberty the last two years to buy more AEDs and has expanded her foundation's reach to Europe. All EuroLeague women arenas are required now to have an AED on site.
The two-time Olympian donated an AED to each school she visited this week.
"One AED can impact thousands of people," Charles said. "I want to make sure that every school or group that wants one can have one."
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Updated April 20, 2017