Annual bocce tournament reaches goal of donating defibrillators to Windsor-Essex schools

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Just weeks after one of their donated defibrillators saved a life at the Caboto Club, the Cremasco family’s annual bocce tournament achieved its goal of raising funds to install the vital devices in every Catholic and public school in Windsor-Essex.

The 5th Bruno Cremasco Memorial Bocce Tournament, held at the Caboto Club over the weekend, celebrated the installation of 154 AEDS 114 in high schools and grade schools across Windsor-Essex, where they are not mandated, and 40 more in high-risk areas.

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The donated devices have helped save three lives since the tournament was started in 2017 by Frank and Lana Cremasco after his father, Bruno, suffered a heart attack while playing bocce and died waiting for an AED to arrive.

“It’s one of those things that you don’t really think about until you’re affected by it,” said the tournament’s co-organizer Frank Cremasco.

“I didn’t really even know what a defib was at the time. And then you quickly become aware of how these things can save lives.”

Bocce ball
Participants in the 5th Bruno Cremasco Memorial Bocce Tournament roll the ball to raise money to install defibrillators across Windsor-Essex on Sunday, June 9, 2024. Photo by Madeline Mazak /Windsor Star

Their donated AEDs helped reverse cardiac arrests at the Honourable W.C. Kennedy Collegiate Institute and Walkerville Collegiate Institute.

Just three weeks ago, a device saved the life of a 61-year-old man playing racquetball at the Caboto Club.

Had there not been an AED on-site, Cremasco said the man would have died waiting for EMS to arrive “when minutes really count.” On that day, paramedics were backlogged 11 minutes.

“The guys that were playing with him noticed that his colour went blue and realized that he was not okay, so they started CPR and called 911,” said Cremasco.

Cremasco said the operator knew the location of every public AED and directed them to the first floor of the Caboto Club to retrieve the life-saving device.

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“They had it on him within three minutes,” he said. 

“By the time EMS had arrived, he was already awake.”

He said that the man, who will make a full recovery thanks to the quick actions of his friends, was recognized at the tournament’s reception dinner Saturday night. Cremasco added that the man and his rescuers were invited to next year’s Essex-Windsor EMS Survivor Day, which celebrates first responders and the lives they saved.

During the dinner, Essex-Windsor EMS Chief Justin Lammers honoured the Cremasco family for their efforts with a gold coin — the fourth to be awarded in the area.

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The Cremascos are currently working on registering all of their donated public AEDs in the PulsePoint app, which helps people locate the the life-saving devices on their smart phones.

Cremasco estimated that around 500 people attended the bocce tournament over the weekend to watch 30 teams.

Since achieving their goal of installing the life-saving devices in every public and Catholic school in the area, they said the fundraiser might evolve in the future.

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