Project Jean gains momentum

Rita Sanson-Sallee had a rapt audience as she told members of the Federal Way Kiwanis Club about how her daughter died of sudden cardiac arrest, and how she is trying to prevent more such deaths. She also has the club’s help with her mission.

The Kiwanians are joining the Federal Way Fire Department in raising funds for Project Jean, with a goal of collecting at least $3,500 to buy a defibrillator to be kept at Federal Way Stadium. The club will donate the proceeds from a silent auction during its 46th annual salmon bake.

Other donors, plus businesses and individuals wishing to contribute auction items, are being sought by the club. More information is available from club member Bob Kellogg at 952-2387.

Project Jean is named for Jean Marie Sanson, who died after suffering sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) following her race for Thomas Jefferson High School in a swim meet Sept. 8, 2000. She was 16.

Sanson was one of two student-athletes in Federal Way who died from SCA during the 2000-01 school year. According to the American Red Cross, 250,000 Americans suffer SCA annually; nearly half die before reaching a hospital.

Researchers say early medical intervention –– namely, an automated external defibrillator –– is critical for reversing SCA.

The earlier a defibrillator is used on a victim, automatically analyzing heart rhythms and delivering electric shocks to the heart to revive it, the better their chance of survival.

Sanson-Sallee, speaking at a Kiwanis Club meeting, said her daughter might have lived if there had been a defibrillator at the swimming pool when she was stricken. Through Project Jean, she and others hope to raise $52,000 to buy 13 defibrilators and place the portable units (each the size of a laptop computer) at each high school and junior high school in the school district, plus the stadium and the district administration building. The goal is to have them all in place by June 2003, when Jean Marie would have graduated.

Jefferson High’s Emergency Response Club also is participating in the fund-raising.

Sanson-Sallee told the Kiwanians that the defibrillator drive is helping her deal with her daughter’s death, and that her daughter would have approved of the project.

Want to help?

Tax-deductible donations for Project Jean can be mailed to Federal Way Firefighters Foundation, 200 S. 333rd St., Federal Way, WA 98003.

Rita Sanson-Sallee, mother of the teenager for whom the drive to buy automatic external defibrilators is named, is available to answer questions and speak to organizations. She can be reached at

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