Evart to offer safety training after student suffers from cardiac arrest

District to provide CPR, AED training

In this file photo, Evart senior Danny Witbeck is pictured throwing a football during a warmup prior to a Wildcats game. During a basketball practice in late January, Witbeck suffered cardiac arrest, but is now recovering thanks to the quick reactions from his coaches and teammates. During a recent school board meeting, the board agreed to purchase additional AEDs and offer CPR training. (Herald Review file photo)

In this file photo, Evart senior Danny Witbeck is pictured throwing a football during a warmup prior to a Wildcats game. During a basketball practice in late January, Witbeck suffered cardiac arrest, but is now recovering thanks to the quick reactions from his coaches and teammates. During a recent school board meeting, the board agreed to purchase additional AEDs and offer CPR training. (Herald Review file photo)

EVART — Evart Public Schools is stepping up its safety protocols after a high school student went into cardiac arrest during a varsity basketball practice several weeks ago.

"Jan. 22, 2021, was a day like any other, until it wasn't. Danny (Witbeck)'s life was saved and a dozen other lives were forever changed," board president Alan Bengry said during Monday's meeting. "The board expresses its deep appreciation and admiration to all those who contributed that day, whether by your actions, your prayers or your presence. The board thanks you."

Evart coaches were able to keep Witbeck alive through CPR and the use of an AED until paramedics arrived, but the incident made the district reevaluate its safety procedures nonetheless.

"We realized we need more AEDs," Superintendent Shirley Howard said.

After the incident took place, Kris Morgan, coach of the Wildcats basketball team, created a GoFundMe page to purchase more AEDs for the school, in the event that a similar event should occur without an AED nearby.

The GoFundMe page raise nearly $3,000 toward the cause. However, the school district has since said they will be covering the cost of all AEDs and will be instead looking to use the funds for community outreach.

"The district will buy any AED that is recommended for us to have," Howard said. "We would never say 'no' to something that will save a life, and along with that, the ones that will be housed outdoors, they need certain shelters … and we are more than willing to get whatever we need to keep the AED safe."

With the money raised, the district will instead be offering free training for students, staff and other Evart residents in CPR and how to use an AED.

"One of the things is having the knowledge to know what to do, not just with the AED but when you think of CPR," Howard said. "I'm sure there's business people and other people that would appreciate the knowledge."

No dates have been set for the training, but Howard said they will likely take place during the summer alongside a celebration in honor of Witbeck and those who donated to the cause.