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This Local Educator Has a Heart Condition. She Knows the Importance of an AED. So She Bought One For Her Learning Center.

by James Coulter

Shara Sowell has a heart condition. Last year, she was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation (AF), which is a type of arrhythmia, or abnormal heartbeat.

As such, she knows the importance of having an emergency medical device like an automated external defibrillator (AED). So, she had one donated to her learning center in Lakeland.

Sowell serves as the Head of the Class Learning Center in Lakeland. According to her LinkedIn page, she has more than 12 years of experience in early childhood education, which includes “taking over a school that was on the verge of being closed with poor management and various accusations and resolving all issues and reaching [maximum] capacity and establishing minimal teacher turn over.”

Last September, Sowell had reached out to Melanie Brown Culpepper, the founder of Culpepper’s Cardiac Foundation, a local non-profit organization dedicated to donating and installing AEDs to businesses and other establishments across the county.

Sowell knows Melanie personally, as Melanie had styled her hair for her wedding in 2009. Melanie also knew her son Austin and daughter-in-law Cassie Lewter Whitchard, as they had lived on the same road when Cassie was growing up.

Melanie and her team donated the AED at the learning center on Tuesday evening. Local firefighter and EMT Eric Shimkus provided a demonstration on the AED while Brian Beilke, Melanie’s fiancée, helped install it.

“She says she’s happy to have one at their school and hopes they never have to use it but they feel equipped and prepared in case they ever have a cardiac emergency,” Melanie wrote on her Facebook. “Shara said she was amazed that I created this foundation in the ability to save someone’s life and says CCF is doing amazing things and glad that they got to be a part of it.”

Melanie started Culpepper’s Cardiac Foundation three years ago following the untimely death of her fiancée, Michael Culpepper, from cardiac arrest. Since then, she has installed more than 35 AEDs across the county at businesses like Tanner’s Lakeside, Old Man Frank’s, and Caribbean Bay.

To learn more about Culpepper’s Cardiac Foundation, visit their Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/honoringculpepper

author avatar
Staff Reporter

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