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Lake Wales
Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Victory Ridge Academy Receives AED Donated by Culpepper Cardiac Foundation


by James Coulter

With the school undergoing expansion, Victory Ridge Academy will be able to facilitate more students, which means it will need to increase measures to ensure their health and safety. Fortunately, the school is better prepared to handle emergencies now that it has received an automated external defibrillator (AED) donated to them by a local non-profit organization.

Culpepper’s Cardiac Foundation donated its 17th AED at Victory Ridge Academy, a school for children with special needs at Lake Wales. The AED was presented and installed inside the school’s cafeteria on Tuesday morning.

Victory Ridge became aware of Culpepper’s Cardiac Foundation through one of their former teachers, Raphael Martin. He is a client at Melanie’s Cutting Edge, owned and operated by Melanie Brown Culpepper, who also started the foundation. She would cut his hair when he was going through chemo, and he would share his journey with fighting cancer on Facebook.

“He [Raphael] shared his journey with her on social media, and that is how we found out about her and connected with her foundation through her Facebook work,” said Erika Timpe, Director of Therapy Services. “We are very appreciative of this donation. They have been long-time supporters of Victory Ridge Academy. The Culpepper Cardiac Foundation is a great member of our community.”

“Steve Whittaker, Executive Director of Victory Ridge, where he has been serving for 11 years, expects the AED to help his students and staff, though he hopes and prays that they will never need to use it.

“It is another tool that we can utilize on campus and visitors and anyone else in case of an emergency and help reduce potential issues,” Whittaker said. “[Culpepper’s] is a wonderful foundation that does a lot to help the community and we are appreciative of it anything we can do.”

The school already has an AED; however, with it undergoing expansion and construction, another AED will prove helpful considering the extra space and additional facilities on their campus, said Amy Brown, Principal of Victory Ridge.

“Since our school is growing and expanding, we now have more buildings on campus, and this AED will help us serve in care of an emergency,” Brown said. “They have a wonderful mission, and they are reaching people and doing amazing things for people who may not have access. We are very appreciative [of them].”

Melanie Brown Culpepper started her foundation nearly two years ago following the untimely passing of her late fiancée, Michael Culpepper, who passed away from cardiac arrest.

Since then, she has raised proceeds to install several dozen AEDs throughout the county and confer scholarships to students training as first responders.

Melanie had previously become acquainted with Victory Ridge Academy five to six years ago through its annual fundraiser, Rockin’ on the Chain. She appreciates being able to see the facility serviced through that event.

“It is an honor to be here today and meet some of the faces I met that day,” she said.

She will be hosting her annual fundraiser, Saving Lives Matter, on Sat., Sep. 16 at Tanners Lakeside in Winter Haven. She has high expectations, especially since the support of the community allows her to accomplish her mission.

“I am getting phone calls and everyone wants me to put it in their establishments and businesses and I cannot do that without funds coming in,” she said. “Without it, I could not make this happen. It is not just me doing this. This is all of us.”

For more information about Culpepper’s Cardiac Foundation, visit their website at: https://honoringculpepper.com/

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