RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Schools in Virginia will now have extra support to be prepared for a potential cardiac arrest on school grounds after the Children’s Hospital of Richmond (CHoR) at Virginia Commonwealth University became the first Project ADAM affiliate in the state in November.

Project ADAM is a national non-profit that helps schools be prepared to care for students, faculty, staff and visitors who may experience a sudden cardiac arrest. It was developed in memory of Wisconsin teen Adam Lemel, who suffered a sudden cardiac arrest and died while playing basketball in 1999. Over the years, Project ADAM has helped save the lives of more than 200 youth and adults in schools.

A key focus of Project ADAM is making sure that schools have and can use automated external defibrillators (AED). An AED is a commonly available device that can analyze the heart’s rhythm and automatically deliver an electrical shock to restore normal rhythm. According to the Red Cross, these devices are becoming more common in places like offices and schools, but not everyone knows how to use them.

“There are approximately 350,000 sudden cardiac arrests in the U.S. each year, about 90% of which are fatal,” Dr. John Phillips, Project ADAM medical director at CHoR, said. “When you consider 20% of a community is in its schools most days…many lives can be saved through access to AEDs and proper education and practice to address these medical emergencies when they arise.”

There are currently 38 Project ADAM programs in 29 states, but CHoR is currently the only program in Virginia. As an affiliate, CHoR team members can help schools by offering hands-only CPR and AED training for school personnel, AED drills planning AED budget planning and CPR and AED documentation logs.

“Our role as a children`s hospital includes caring for families in our hospitals and clinics, as well as creating healthier communities outside our walls,” Elias Neujahr, CHoR president, said. “Becoming a Project ADAM affiliate allows our team to share their expertise so others throughout the commonwealth stand ready to save lives.”

A school must meet 14 criteria to officially achieve designation as a Project ADAM heart safe school. This includes having on-site AEDs, employing CPR and AED-certified team members, educating the entire staff about the program and emergency response plan, and conducting sudden cardiac arrest drills.

Virginia school personnel and parents interested in their schools becoming heart safe designated can contact Dr. John Phillips at or Lexi Stevens, the program coordinator, at for details on how to get started.