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When high school physical education teacher Donna introduces the ACT High School CPR Program to her students, she tells them a very personal story.

The program helped her save her son’s life.

While enjoying dinner with her two young kids in January 2008, four-year-old Ben started to panic.

“He was hammering his hands down and shaking his head back and forth, not really knowing what to do,” said Donna. “But he was quiet and he was not making any sound.”

“I stood up and initially I just whacked his back a little bit,” she said. “But then I thought – ‘what am I doing?’ I don’t have time to mess around here.”

“I had to act quickly,” said Donna, adding that she immediately stood Ben up on his feet and successfully performed the Heimlich Manoeuvre.

Donna has been teaching students at Sir John A. MacDonald Secondary School in Waterloo the ACT High School CPR Program for about three years.

“It is simple and easy to follow,” said Donna. “It takes out all the drama and fear that can be associated with getting involved in a crisis and it gives you the basic skills to get in there and be effective.”

To show her students how important the program is, Donna now plans to display photos of her son during her introduction to the course.

“He would not be here right now if I didn’t know how to do this and if I hadn’t taken this course,” she said.

“I would have hesitated too long,” she said. “I would not have been able to save his life.”

The ACT High School CPR Program was made possible in Sir John A. MacDonald thanks to generous community and provincial-level support which enabled the donation of mannequins, teacher training and curriculum resources. The community partner in Waterloo is the Kiwanis Club of Waterloo-Laurel. Provincial partners of the program are the Government of Ontario, Hydro One, Shoppers Drug Mart, and The Ontario Trillium Foundation.

The Advanced Coronary Treatment (ACT) Foundation is an award-winning, national charitable organization dedicated to establishing CPR in high schools across Canada. ACT raises funds to donate mannequins, teacher training, manuals and other materials to schools, and guides schools in program set-up and long-term sustainability. Teachers teach CPR to their students as a regular part of the curriculum. Over 900,000 youth have been trained in CPR through this lifesaving program to date.

Core partners supporting the program in Ontario and throughout are companies in the research-based pharmaceutical industry: AstraZeneca, Bristol-Myers Squibb , Pfizer and sanofi-aventis. They provide ACT’s sustaining funding and are committed to the Foundation’s national goal of promoting health and empowering Canadians to save lives.