AYER -- Twelve-year-old Gracie Soultanian of Shirley is best known for her efforts to raise awareness of sudden cardiac arrest in local communities and schools.
Moved by the story about the death in 2010 of 16-year-old Michael Ellsessar, who collapsed from a blow to the chest while playing high-school football in Sutton, Soultanian launched a nonprofit named Heartstrong. Heartstrong's goal is to put Automatic External Defibrillators (AED) at all schools and athletic fields in her community plus provide CPR and AED training to coaches, school personnel and students.
Soultanian's efforts recently received the 2014 Youth Advocacy Champion honor during the Heroes for Young Hearts Awards ceremony at national conference of Parent Heart Watch in Cary, N.C.
Just over a year into her efforts, Soultanian has helped to place five AED devices, including one received from Parent Heart Watch in recognition of her efforts. She has visited the Statehouse twice to advocate for CPR and AED legislation and is planning a heart-screening event for this spring.
A fundraising event was held Saturday at The Billiards Cafe in Ayer. Soultanian is partnering in her efforts with Austin Lynn, of Littleton.