Culpepper’s Cardiac Foundation Hosts 2nd Annual Saving Lives Matter Fundraiser
by James Coulter
Three years ago, tragedy struck the life of Melanie Brown Culpepper. Her fiancée, Michael Culpepper, suffered cardiac arrest. Despite the best efforts of first responders, he was unable to be revived and he passed away before arriving at the hopsital, where he was declared dead.
Not wanting others to suffer a similar fate, Melanie started Culpepper’s Cardiac Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to raising funds to donate and install automated external defibrillators (AEDs) throughout Polk County and finance scholarships to firefighters, EMTs, and other first responders.
Since its inception three years ago, Culpepper’s Cardiac Foundation has donated and installed nearly 20 AEDs in local establishments and businesses including Old Man Frank’s, Caribbean Bay, and Tanner’s Lakeside. Melanie and her crew donated and installed their 20th AED at Brew Hounds Sports Lounge last week.
Culpepper’s Cardiac Foundation hosted its annual Saving Lives Matter fundraiser on Saturday afternoon at Tanner’s Lakeside in Winter Haven. Several hundred people attended this year’s event to listen to live music, eat barbecue dinners, and buy raffle tickets for various prizes donated by local businesses.
“I’m thankful and blessed that they all came out to support Culpepper’s Cardiac Foundation,” she said. “It touches my heart. The way the community is pulling together, the way that everybody is coming out, they gave me raffles, they are helping me, and it is just an amazing turnout.”
This year’s turnout proved to be bigger and better than last year’s. Melanie owes her success to the overall goodwill that other people witness through her program. The more AEDs they donate to the community, the more people see the good that her organization is doing.
During the fundraiser, Melanie announced a new project: a mobile app that will allow users to locate nearby AEDs, especially those provided through her organization. The app is available on CulpepperAED.com.
“They are seeing that I am helping to save other people and that is how we have to do it to get money in to get AEDs out,” she said. “Honestly, [I love] everyone getting together and the town and community means so much to me that they all pull together when it means the most, and that is what it is all about.”
Brian Parrish has been a close friend of Melanie’s. She has assisted with his organization’s event, Winter Haven Ducks Unlimited. So, he gratuitously returns the favor by assisting with her organization.
“It is a real [good] cause,” he said. “It can happen to anybody at any time no matter where you are. If you are out with family having dinner, breakfast, or lunch, or you are out shopping, it can happen to anyone at any time. And if we had more of these AEDs in every location, it would save lives.”
Steve Wert has been a friend of hers for two years. He also knows her through Terica Kenne, another friend of Melanie’s who works closely in Culpepper’s Cardiac Foundation.
“[I am] more than happy to help today,” Wert said. “Right now, it is early, but it looks good right now. It is a good turnout. All the tables are full. I hope we get more people and lots of donations and sell lots of tickets and we have a turnout for the auctions.”