The story of Who We Play For began November 30, 2007 on the goal line of a Cocoa Beach High School soccer field, where Rafe Maccarone went into sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) following a warm-up routine before the beginning of practice. The next day, December 1, 2007 Rafe passed away, and we would later learn the condition that caused his cardiac arrest was called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM). Our community was rocked by the reality that a seemingly healthy, and active, 15 year old, who passed all his sports physicals, could die from heart disease while playing the sport he loved most.
An even more shocking reality we faced was that not only was Rafe’s condition detectable, and in fact the leading cause of SCA in sports, but there were also several countries that long ago recognized SCA in youth as the immense public health issue that it is and established screening protocols to identify these children at risk before they take the sports field. Those efforts abroad, in countries such as Italy, have reduced the incidence of sudden cardiac arrest by 89%. This was a reality that our community refused to accept for our students, so in 2014 we established WWPF as a 501 c3 and began partnering with schools across the state of Florida, and 6 other states, to provide affordable ECG screenings for their students. Our goal has always been to show the country that not only is it imperative, but it is also possible to deliver affordable ECG screenings to every child no matter their level of athletics, socio-economic status or geographical location.
To date, WWPF has screened over 100,000 people in over 300 communities across 7 states. We have identified 76 individuals that needed some level of medical intervention, including heart transplants, and hundreds of others with abnormalities that can now be monitored.
The soul of WWPF has always been to represent the thousands of children each year, like Rafe, that suffer sudden cardiac arrest from detectable heart conditions, and the communities left to find a solution in the wake of these tragedies. Each community we have served, and will serve in the future, has been impacted by SCA in some way, and their stories help strengthen our mission to eliminate preventable sudden cardiac deaths in youth.