For fourteen years Cheryl Toth, Physical Education teacher at Marco Island Charter Middle School has added an ‘extra’ lesson for the middle school students. Each year since the school’s second year of existence, one entire grade level has received the life-saving instruction of CPR. Over the years, this equates to about 1,000 students walking out of MICMS with the ability to save a life.
“When I moved here from Pennsylvania, it occurred to me we are surrounded by water, whether it be swimming pools, the beach or living on a canal. It got me thinking how we should be training children early on about water safety, CPR and first aid.”
According to Don Jones, Division Chief at the Marco Island Fire Rescue Department, “Cheryl has been instrumental in getting this out to her students. She incorporates teaching these skills into her regular curriculum. It goes beyond CPR and includes infant/child/adult CPR, the Heimlich maneuver, basic first aid and the use of AED’s. Besides everything else she fits into her annual schedule, she makes sure to include CPR to benefit the children. Shemakes time for the program.”
Not only was MICMS the first school in the district to offer the program, it is only one of a handful district wide that offers the program today. Cheryl does all the in class course training, followed by a hands on portion with the assistance of Don and the Fire Rescue Department. Karen Miller with the American Heart Association from Physicians Regional, has been a tremendous supporter. She works with Cheryl and Don to be sure necessary requirements are met and completes the certificates for the students. This year, Marco Island Fire Rescue Foundation gave each student a small key chain which contains a small mouth shield for personal safety while administering mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
Cheryl led an initiative to garner community support when the program began. Support came from the William and Martha Muska Foundation. Martha had just completed a CPR class. Within a week her husband suffered a stroke. She was relieved she knew what to do. The subsequent donation gave MICMS ten infant mannequins and ten adult mannequins. That was more than ten years ago. The mannequins are atthe end of their usefulness for the students.
“How did I get started in this? I helped out at a CPR session for teachers. Later, I told a friend at tennis about the idea to do a similar course for students. That was Mary Husted. She is a great lady (great tennis player) and still with the Fire Rescue Department. She put me in touch with Don Jones who heads CPR training for the Fire Department and we’ve been offering the program ever since. Don has made this endeavor possible and Karen Miller offered her assistance as well. Everyone has been so easy to work with.”
Over the years, Cheryl has heard a few reports from students who put their skills in action in real life situations, like one young girl who was babysitting and had to perform a Heimlich maneuver on a choking child. “It must have been very intense for her, but she didn’t panic, she knew what to do and did it.”
“It is people like Cheryl who help us keep this community safe. She is preparing them for emergency situations making them better citizens,” noted Don.