A lasting legacy

Late FHS student’s family raises funds for the Student Heart Check program

By: Joshua Gordon | Woodward Talk | Published March 15, 2016

 FHS Assistant Principal and Athletic Director Shaun Butler, left, works with Patrice Fueri, right, Mario Campbell’s mother, March 12 to submit auction tickets during a fundraiser in Mario’s honor.

FHS Assistant Principal and Athletic Director Shaun Butler, left, works with Patrice Fueri, right, Mario Campbell’s mother, March 12 to submit auction tickets during a fundraiser in Mario’s honor.

Photo by Donna Agusti

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FERNDALE — Mario Campbell was a 16-year-old Ferndale High School athlete looking to get a fast start to his junior track season when he collapsed on March 14, 2013, during an indoor practice.

Campbell didn’t know his heart wasn’t healthy, and neither did his parents. After collapsing, Campbell was pronounced dead a short time after arriving at Royal Oak Beaumont Hospital. He had myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart that is difficult to diagnose and often caused by a virus.

Today, Campbell’s family is hoping to help other student-athletes and families to not have to endure the circumstances they did.

On March 12, Campbell’s family hosted a fundraiser at Rosie O’Grady’s in downtown Ferndale to raise funds for the Student Heart Check screening program, which Beaumont Health System created in 2007 as a way to offer free heart screenings to students to protect them against unknown heart conditions that may make participating in athletics dangerous.

The fundraiser brought in just over $2,000 for the screening program.

“I think ultimately it was really based around the fact that we saw an opportunity to impact some folks in a way we thought could be helpful,” Donnell Campbell, Mario Campbell’s father, said. “Anytime you lose someone close to you, anniversaries always come around, and we wanted to do something positive as more of a celebration instead of a down time. What better way than to support a program that focuses on student-athletes?”

The Student Heart Check screenings started following a string of cardiology problems in the area, including the collapse of then-Detroit Red Wings player Jiri Fischer in 2005 due to cardiac arrest.

Since its beginning, Student Heart Check Event Coordinator Jennifer Shea said the program has screened 13,000 kids for free, and 171 have had heart disorders that had to be checked out. The program goes around to local schools a few times a year to offer free screenings, bringing in nearly 500 students every time.

“When you go through a regular sports physical from 13 to 18, you don’t go through a heart test at all,” Shea said. “Nothing is done regarding the ventricular path of your heart, and we provide those tests that a regular physical or even a pediatrician’s office doesn’t. It can cost a lot of money, and this is a way to provide it free to students.”

Donnell Campbell said his son excelled in the hurdles for the FHS track team and was looking to the future, with track being a part of it.

Outside of track, Donnell Campbell said Mario was “obsessed” with music.

“The only thing he was more passionate about than track was his music,” Donnell Campbell said. “He was more of a lyrical person and did a lot of writing. You would be hard-pressed to see him without his headphones, whether he was doing homework or running track.”

Donnell Campbell said he first heard about the Student Heart Check program before Mario passed away and was amazed to see how impactful the program was for families. He was impressed with the ability to do it all for free because of donations and events like the one in Mario’s honor.

During the fundraiser, Mario’s family raffled off a variety of items including a Tom Izzo autographed basketball, other Michigan State gear and a golf package. A 50-50 raffle was also held and a DJ was brought in to keep the event upbeat, Donnell Campbell said.

By having families like Mario Campbell’s step up and help the Student Heart Check program, Shea said it connects people with one another.

“The reason it is free is because of people like this family that raises money for other kids not to have to go through the same thing they experienced,” she said. “Families of kids we have saved and families of kids who have passed away, we all work together to help service the kids in our community.”

During the May 2014 FHS graduation ceremony, the district presented Mario Campbell’s family with the diploma he would have earned, as well as a memorial plaque with Mario’s face and a few of his quotes on it. Community fundraising covered the cost of the plaque, which hangs in the school’s “track hallway” near the cafeteria.

Losing a son is hard, Donnell Campbell said, but having his son pass away without any warning was something the family still struggles with three years later. And they don’t want any other family to have to experience that.

“Initially, there is a disbelief that it is actually happening, and there is a second component of why, and I don’t think that the why part ever goes away,” he said. “As parents, we go to work every day to work hard to provide for your family, and to find out that main goal you are doing things for is being taken away, that is a big pill to swallow.

“His mom and I, we will always love our son and cherish the time we had with him, but he was a special enough person where that legacy piece of what he brought to the table will continue, and this fundraiser was a good way to be able to do that.”

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