New Paltz emergency responders play ball for defibrillators

The New Paltz Emergency Services Softball Fundraiser will be held on September 17 at the New Paltz High School. Left to right are: New Paltz town supervisor and honorary coach Neil Bettez, New Paltz Rescue Squad chief administrative off icer Lauren Rooney, New Paltz police chief Joe Snyder and New Paltz Volunteer Fire Department first assistant Chief Cory Wirthmann. Not pictured: New Paltz village mayor and honorary coach Tim Rogers. (Photo by Lauren Thomas)

The New Paltz Emergency Services Softball Fundraiser will be held on September 17 at the New Paltz
High School. Left to right are: New Paltz town supervisor and honorary coach Neil Bettez, New Paltz
Rescue Squad chief administrative off icer Lauren Rooney, New Paltz police chief Joe Snyder and New
Paltz Volunteer Fire Department first assistant Chief Cory Wirthmann. Not pictured: New Paltz village
mayor and honorary coach Tim Rogers. (Photo by Lauren Thomas)

New Paltz community members are urged to come out to the high school on South Putt Corners Road this Saturday, September 17 at 3:30 p.m. to support their favorite uniformed emergency responders as they play softball to raise money for automated external defibrillators (AEDs). There are no AEDs at either Clearwater Park or the Field of Dreams. Remedying that situation is one of several reasons that this game is being played.

Suggested donations are five dollars per adult and three dollars for kids under eighteen. AEDs cost about $1500 each and require maintenance, which members of New Paltz rescue squad will provide.

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Anyone who attends will receive free training on the use of an AED, as well as compression-only CPR. That’s directly tied into a rescue-squad initiative, A Thousand Hands Across New Paltz, the purpose of which is the certify a thousand people on this form of cardiopulmonary resuscitation that eschews mouth-to-mouth. According to Lauren Rooney, chief administrative officer of the rescue squad, not interrupting the compression rhythm to deliver a breath gives a victim of cardiac arrest a better chance of survival overall.

While these devices are expensive, it’s hoped that enough money can be raised not only to supply them to the two fields, but also to Main Street businesses as well. Right now, only P&Gs and Main Street Bistro have AEDs, with each paid for voluntarily by their owners. Rooney said that the long-term goal is to have several additional locations, and to mark them with signage depicting a large red heart. Add that to a thousand people trained to recognize signs of cardiac distress and administer CPR if need be, and New Paltz becomes a much safer community in which to experience sudden cardiac arrest.

“We want people on the street to jump in,” Rooney explained.

Police chief Joe Snyder is credited with coming up with the idea of a softball game to raise both money and awareness. The lack of AEDs at these town fields — each of which is on the outskirts — made a softball game a good fit. Firefighters were invited to participate in part because the 80-something rescue squad would have vastly outnumbered the off-duty town police officers available to play. In the field, observed first assistant chief Cory Wirthmann, firefighters also play a supporting role for rescue-squad members.

“We carry things, grab things, get things out of the way,” Wirthmann said. Firefighters are not required to have the same level of medical training. “Most communities have a combined EMS and fire department, but we can specialize.”

At the game, firefighters will provide much more than a supporting role as part of the police-fire team “Guns and Hoses,” which together with honorary coach and town supervisor Neil Bettez, will play against “I.V. League,” the rescue-squad members who have selected mayor Tim Rogers as their honorary coach.

Other than everyone getting a chance at bat, no one is entirely sure how long they’ll play. This isn’t the first time emergency responders have gotten together for a friendly competition. There has been talk about “getting payback for the pizza-eating contest,” but this will be the first time the event is combined with a cause.

Bettez hopes this will be the first annual game of its sort, with new causes being identified as they arise. For those interested in donating to the cause, checks may be made out to the New Paltz Rescue Squad at 74 North Putt Corners Road. Rescue-squad members also offer regular CPR certification classes.

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