Observer staff report
The American Heart Association has named Williston resident Tommy Watson its Youth Advocate of the Year.
Watson accepted the national award April 8 at the association’s annual Hero’s Reception on Congressional Lobby Day in Washington, D.C.
“It was a really a great experience for me,” Watson said. “I got to see other people throughout the nation who have been doing similar advocacy work.”
Watson was joined by three other honorees—Pennsylvania’s Dr. Weintraub, science advocate of the year; Lee Storrow of North Carolina, volunteer advocate of the year; and survivor advocate of the year Yolanda Dickerson from North Carolina.
The Youth Advocate of the Year award is given to a young person actively engaged in lobbying lawmakers on heart and stroke issues for the association. Candidates should have testified before lawmakers, communicated with elected officials, shared compelling stories, served as a role models, recruited advocates and encouraged other youth to get involved.
Watson, now a freshman at Champlain Valley Union High School, has worked to promote hands-only CPR for more than a year. Aside from teaching the method to more than 600 people, Watson worked to support a bill, passed in May, which gives every Vermont student the opportunity to learn CPR.
“There is no better example of the phrase practice what you preach,” said Tina Zuk, government relations director at the Vermont American Heart Association, in a press release. “Tommy not only testified before the Vermont House and Senate Education Committees, he instructed the committees in how to perform CPR, and trained the Senate president, lieutenant. governor and governor.”
Watson, who started with a goal of training 100 people in hands-only CPR, now has his eye on the 1,000 mark.
He began training community members after witnessing an elderly man collapse after a heart attack, which proved fatal. Out of the crowd of adults present, only one person felt comfortable performing CPR, Watson said.
“I thought it would be my mission to train the community,” he said.
If you don’t know CPR, life-saving knowledge can be a 60-second video clip away. Watson recommended visiting the American Heart Association website, www.heart.org, which has a simple, one-minute video describing the process, as well as links to CPR and first aid courses.