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Coupeville Eagle Scout raises $5K for school defibrillators

Chris Bitting, Coupeville Middle School student and Life Scout from Greenbank Troop 4053, presents three automated external defibrillators to the Coupeville School District at last month’s school board meeting. The ambitious student raised $5,000 to purchase the lifesaving devices, successfully completing his Eagle project.  - Nathan Whalen/Whidbey News-Times
Chris Bitting, Coupeville Middle School student and Life Scout from Greenbank Troop 4053, presents three automated external defibrillators to the Coupeville School District at last month’s school board meeting. The ambitious student raised $5,000 to purchase the lifesaving devices, successfully completing his Eagle project.
— image credit: Nathan Whalen/Whidbey News-Times

In the last eight months Chris Bitting has watched his tireless work on an Eagle project inspire a community and transcend a mere scouting milestone.

The Coupeville Middle School student and Life Scout from Greenbank Troop 4053 began fundraising in August of last year, setting the lofty goal of purchasing three automated external defibrillators, or AEDs, for the school district. Once he researched the products and discovered the local need, Chris could not be dissuaded. The $5,000 price tag for the three AEDs only served as further motivation.

“I considered this project for two reasons,” he said. “The first being my sister has a heart condition and secondly the school district had no AEDs on any of the school campuses.”

AEDs are lightweight, portable machines that deliver a shock to the heart. The equipment is used to stop fibrillation, defined as rapid and unsynchronized heart rhythms, and also known as sudden cardiac arrest. Medical jargon aside, the machines save lives.

Having completed the Eagle project May 20, a remarkable accomplishment in itself, Bitting presented the AEDs to the district at last month’s school board meeting. Both Superintendent Patty Page and Principal David Ebersole were unable to hide their gratitude as they introduced the impressive young man.

“Then the board made him feel very proud of his accomplishment and they each shook his hand,” said Elizabeth Bitting, Chris’ mother. “And because of his Eagle project, the work involved and whom it will benefit, Chris was presented with the Linda Lee Martens Memorial Health Hero Award given by the Island Community Health Advisory Board of Island County. This was unexpected, Chris was surprised and we are so proud.”

The self-effacing middle-schooler myopically focused on his goal and the lives the AEDs would ultimately save. And with a father serving as the Whidbey General Hospital Emergency Department manager, Chris came by his medical interests naturally.

“Every minute nothing is done, the victim’s survival rate drops between 7 to 10 percent,” Chris said. “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 learned the nuances of fundraising as he approached countless local business owners seeking financial assistance. He adeptly, and successfully, solicited funds as he placed the project above his personal comfort level.

“I approached Red Apple, Sally’s Garden, Wal-Mart, Christopher’s, and Island Pet Center for donations,” he said. Albertsons donated more than 150 cookies with plastic gloves, napkins and cookie trays. And by the end of the fundraising, Chris could give his presentation in his sleep. “I completed my presentation many times to different community groups and school officials, including the superintendent, principals, the school nurse, Central Whidbey Lions Club, and Soroptomist of Coupeville.”

Chris placed donation canisters in local businesses. While patrons were generous with their contributions, one particularly ill-intentioned person attempted to cast a pall over the project when he or she stole a full canister of money from Videoville. Undaunted, the Eagle Scout forged ahead and used the classless crime as motivation to work even harder.

“Chris did work very hard at this, made some great contacts, met great people and really realized what a great community we live in because of all their support,” his mother said. “He was very disappointed when the theft occurred at Videoville, but the community stepped up and covered the loss plus some. It was really great.”

Unwilling to simply complete the project and move on, Chris jumped at the opportunity to shadow his contact at the Seattle Philips plant.

“I was able to observe how AEDs are made plus the history behind the birth of the AED,” he said. “It was very informative. I truly enjoyed my time there.”

From bake sales, to a jazz band fundraiser, to presentations that bore considerable “fruit,” Chris pursued every avenue. And the community responded in-kind.

“I feel very proud for being able to complete this project,” he said. “At times it seemed a very hard goal to reach but with the help from my troop, community and family I was able to reach the goal. I am glad there will be an AED at each school and I hope they will never have to be used.”

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