Wes Leonard Heart Team saving others after student athlete's death

Posted at 10:03 PM, Jan 26, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-26 22:03:03-05

FENNVILLE, Mich — For another year, the Never Forgotten basketball game will help the Wes Leonard Heart Team save lives, and honor the charity’s namesake through friendly competition.

After scoring the game winning basket to cap a perfect regular season for Fennville in 2011, Wes Leonard collapsed and died on the court, doctors said of an enlarged heart. Now in its ninth consecutive year, the game helps raise money for automated external defibrillators, or AEDs, that could prevent something similar.

“If you are in a prison, it’s mandatory that you have one, and if you are in a workout center it’s mandatory that you have one. But not in schools,” said Wes’ mom Jocelyn Leonard, who founded the heart team in the months after his passing. “Until we legislate that they’re required in the schools…that’s the biggest obstacle. We need that last step.”

Besides placing AEDs, it’s the heart team’s biggest objective. A recent law passed mandated schools upkeep any AEDs they have, but stopped short of requiring them. But from schools making purchases on their own, to running readiness drills, Jocelyn says she’s encouraged by conscious changes she’s seeing, that Wes Leonard Heart Team no doubt had a lot to do with.

“We’re just seeing a lot of people not fumbling around, they’re just making some really great choices and they’re ready and their teams are ready,” she said.

This year’s Never Forgotten game is raising money through t-shirt sales, this year including infant sizes. The heart team placed 12 AEDs at the event as well.

“I think that means a lot to our family and to Wes’ friends and that we honor him. And that’s what this game is all about. It’s never forgotten…” said Jocelyn.