This leader is a lifesaver

While many middle-schoolers are consumed with healthy but more superficial worries, Chris Bitting has looked beyond himself, orchestrating a project that will ultimately save lives.

The Coupeville Middle School student and Life Scout from Greenbank Troop 4053 was inspired months ago as he was brainstorming for his Eagle project.

“He wanted his Eagle project to be something the community was in need of,” said Elizabeth Bitting, Chris’ mother. “One afternoon he and his father were watching the news and a story came on about the use of an automated external defibrillator that saved the life of a girl.”

Unsure if the Coupeville School District had access to AEDs, Chris researched the technology and met with Superintendent Patty Page.

“After doing more research and presenting his idea to the middle and high school principals, as well as the school district nurse, his Eagle project to raise money to purchase and donate AEDs to the school district was approved,” Elizabeth said.

The industrious and altruistic student, with the backing of his troop and unwavering volunteer assistance, has arranged a series of fundraisers. Donation canisters have been placed in Coupeville businesses and Chris opened a donation account at Wells Fargo Bank under the name “AEDs for Coupeville schools.”

“Chris has already started his fundraising efforts,” Elizabeth said.

Scoutmaster Kathy Marley said, due to Chris’ persistence, the fundraising has gained amazing momentum in a short time.

“To this point in his project, he has had community support through bake sales, in the wind and rain, to raising funds through letters, meeting face-to-face with community services requesting grants, setting up an account at the bank for donations and any other contacts he could think of so that his project would become a reality,” she said, duly impressed. “Chris has shown leadership qualities beyond his age. He has been an outstanding scout leader in this project and in his troop.”

AEDs are lightweight, portable machines that deliver a shock to the heart and stop fibrillation, also known as sudden cardiac arrest. Chris’ goal is to purchase three of the devices at a total price of $5,000.

“The bulk of my project will be fundraising,” he wrote in the project proposal. “My goal is to complete my Eagle project prior to the end of the school year. If I am able to raise more funds than needed, I will use that money to purchase another AED. If I do not raise enough funds to purchase at least one AED by the end of this school year, I will then continue fundraising efforts to get at least one AED.”

Marley initially double-checked the lofty $5,000 goal with the Life Scout. His resolve never wavered, even in the face of the formidable sum.

“When I asked at his scoutmaster conference if he thought his $5,000 goal was an attainable one, Chris told me that he was aware that it would take a while, but was determined to move ahead and not let the large cost factor deter him,” Marley said. “That shows me the confidence, determination and leadership goals required of an Eagle Scout.”

Chris will donate any excess funds to the school district to be designated as preventative maintenance and/or future training related to AED operation.

The student eloquently pleaded his case in the proposal, laying out the overwhelming benefits of having the machines accessible.

“Every minute nothing is done, the victim’s survival rate drops 7 to 10 percent,” he wrote. “It is not just the students that can suffer from sudden cardiac arrest; there are the school staff, parent and grandparent volunteers and other students visiting for school events and any other visitors for activities occurring on any one of the school grounds. My project benefits the Coupeville School District and all these people because it saves lives.”

Chris comes by his life-saving interests genetically. His father, John, is Whidbey General Hospital Emergency Department manager.

Marley harbors no doubts that the scout will reach his goal, a benchmark that goes beyond the average scope of an Eagle Scout project. She aptly described the undertaking as getting to the “heart” of the matter.

“Just one use of the AEDs and one life saved makes the project well worth it and I’m sure that was what Chris was thinking when he thought through this project,” the scoutmaster said. “He has even thought beyond the initial project, with training money built in to ensure proper usage of the AEDs. I am very proud of Chris for taking on such a worthy project, that will no doubt save lives.”

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