After her son, Ethan, died last summer, Carla Swecker Freeman asked that in lieu of flowers, friends and family donate to the Archer Lodge Fire Department.
After all, the department was her son’s passion. She and her husband, Ethan’s stepfather Lynn, often carried Ethan to the fire station on Covered Bridge Road after he joined the department as a junior firefighter at age 13.
When Ethan got his driver’s license, he was practically there all the time, his mother said.
“This was his life,” she said.
The fire department used the donations that came in after Ethan’s death to buy automated external defibrillators, or AEDs, for three local schools. Last month, the department donated the devices, which are used to treat sudden cardiac arrest, to River Dell Elementary, East Clayton Elementary and Archer Lodge Middle.
None of the schools previously owned the lifesaving equipment.
“Certainly if it can help another child’s family in an emergency situation, I think that Ethan would have liked that,” Freeman said.
Ethan was visiting a friend last July in Oklahoma when he drowned while swimming at a lake. He was 17 and a rising senior at Corinth Holders High School.
His parents say he was an outdoorsman who loved hunting and fishing, pickup trucks and riding dirt bikes and four-wheelers. At school, he was a member of the FFA and Ducks Unlimited club. He played soccer his freshman and sophomore years.
“Ethan was always a helper,” his mother said. “He loved helping people.”
Before his death, Ethan had completed firefighting training at Johnston Community College. He had all of the training needed to become a certified firefighter when he turned 18, a title the fire department bestowed posthumously.
Archer Lodge Fire Chief Phillip Driver said the department wanted to give the money donated in Ethan’s memory to the community. Mike Medlin, the assistant fire chief and school resource officer at Corinth Holders High, had the idea of buying defibrillators for schools that didn’t have them.
“This is another tool that we have to be able to serve and assist our students if the need ever arises,” said River Dell Elementary Principal Ben Williams.
Several River Dell teachers and staff members are already trained on how to use a defibrillator. Williams said he hopes front office staff and administrators will also receive training in how to use the device.
Ethan attended two of the schools that received defibrillators, River Dell Elementary and Archer Lodge Middle. His mother presented to all three schools a plaque that makes note of the donation in Ethan’s name.
While many schools have AEDs, the devices aren’t cheap. Most cost between $1,000 and $1,500.
“It’s something that we would not have had the opportunity to buy if this wasn’t the case,” said Archer Lodge Middle Principal Betsy Huddleston.
Ethan’s mother said she hates that a tragedy had to happen for funds to come available for something as important as AEDs. However, she’s happy that something good is coming out of a tragic situation.
“For these schools, a lot of people are at these schools on a daily basis, and emergencies happen all the time,” Freeman said. “Hopefully one person’s tragedy will help prevent another.”
Dunn: 919-553-7234, Ext. 104