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From One Foundation to Another: Culpepper’s Cardiac Donates AED to Horses for Handicapped in Sebring

by James Coulter

Culpepper’s Cardiac Foundation protects people’s physical well-being by donating automated external defibrillators (AEDs). Horses For Handicapped helps people’s mental well-being by providing horseback riding for people with various mental and physical disabilities. So, it only makes sense that both foundations would support each other with one donating to another.

Helen Heaney, a volunteer for Horses For Handicapped in Sebring, learned about Culpepper’s Cardiac Foundation while scrolling through Facebook in October. Upon learning about the organization, she reached out to its founder, Melanie Brown Culpepper, and requested an AED for her facility.

“I was very inspired by her story and how she made something tragic in her life, a positive for so many others,” Heaney said. “With Horses for Handicapped, having many children through adults with varying disabilities & medical issues, I thought having an AED would be our first defense in helping a tragedy not occur.”

Melanie and her team of volunteers visited Horses For Handicapped on Wednesday to donate and install the AED. This device will be the 38th device donated by her organization, and the first to not only be donated in Pinellas County, but also the first of five AEDs provided by Tampa Bay Lightning.

Horses For Handicapped started in 1981 with Founder Gene Harris of the Seminole Kiwanis & Mary “Snakey” Urguhart, a leader of the 4H & Girl Scouts. Heaney joined the program in Sebring to help accommodate her daughter, Kelly Krohel, who is diagnosed with Autism. Kelly started horseback riding at age eight and continues to do so even at age 29.

During their visit, Melanie was also able to meet Leah Frohnerath and her daughter Jocelyn Frohnerath, who was born with a disability and started horseback riding at age six. Jocelyn was able to show Melanie and her team her horse which won several competitions.

“This was one very touching moment for me, as was able to place the AED at a location that I’m honored that it went to so many different reasons,” Melanie said. “This went to a foundation from another foundation that are out to help ones in need.”

Melanie started her foundation three years ago following the untimely death of her late fiancée, Michael Culpepper, from cardiac arrest. Not wanting to see anyone else suffer a similar fate, she started her organization and has raised proceeds to donate nearly 40 AEDs to businesses and other establishments across Polk County.

As someone who operates her own foundation to help people in need, Heany was inspired by Melanie’s story, which prompted her to reach out and request an AED of their own. Being able to coordinate with another local foundation was nothing short of motivational.

“It’s truly a godsend having an AED donated,” she said. “Seeing that we rely on donations to care for and run the program, we couldn’t possibly buy one on our own. Melanie is such an inspiration to others. Her story is sad & tragic, but her love for Michael lives on in what she has accomplished by giving others the opportunity to save a life.”

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

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