Have you ever performed CPR in front of the White House? Well, I can say I have.

Back in January our Chief Experience Office, Dana Miller, and I had the privilege of attending the annual Parent Heart Watch, Heart to Heart Conference. While this was life-changing in itself, that’s a story for another day. 

It was at the Heart to Heart that we met SCA survivor Ed Kosiec (Read his story here!) and heard about his journey driving around the United States to teach free CPR, and the third-annual Nationwide CPR & AED Awareness Rally & March that stemmed from it. So June 1, the first day of National CPR & AED Awareness Week, we boarded a plane from Boise, ID to Washington, D.C.

Along with multiple other organizations and non-profits, we set up shop next to the Washington Monument to bring awareness about CPR and AEDs, but also to teach free hands-only CPR. We then marched to on to the U.S. Capitol. Parents brought signs with photos of their children lost to Sudden Cardiac Arrest, survivors bore signs stating “CPR and an AED Saved My Life,” and legislation was at the forefront, “We Support the Access to AEDs Act S 1024 H 2370.”

In front of the Capitol several participants gave speeches, we performed hands-only CPR demos, and one participant applied an AED to himself to demonstrate that an AED will not shock you if a shock is not advised. Even though this is a fact that I know, witnessing it firsthand was still an impactful experience.

After lunch we marched on to the White House. This is where the real magic happened. We set up CPR manikins and the crowds of tourists gathered around to learn CPR. A fun announcer, who I can only assume is a White House staple, played Stayin’ Alive and other CPR hits to the beat of 100-120 beats per minute. He also posed a question that struck me, “This group isn’t here every day teaching CPR. So why do they happen to be here on the same day as you?”

I may never know the answer, I may never know if what we did ever directly helped a person to save a life, but it was certainly powerful to see the work that we do put into motion. It’s easy to sit behind a desk every day, get stuck in your routine and lose track of the WHY. And that day we got to experience it and remember why our mission is so important.

Honestly, I hope no one out there that day ever has to perform CPR or use an AED, but the reality is 365,000 Americans per year will suffer from Sudden Cardiac Arrest (outside of the hospital), which means you may be needed to act for a stranger, a loved one, a co-worker or friend. 

Is your CPR certification up-to-date? Do you feel empowered to use an AED? Fill out the form below to sign up for CPR/AED training. And mark your calendars for next year’s Nationwide CPR & AED Awareness Rally & March!