CeeJay Larino never knew fellow St. Peter’s Prep swimmer, B.J. Giannone, who collapsed on the pool deck after a swim meet in 2011 due to heart disease. Giannone died that day, but his memory is carried on with the B.J. Giannone 2011 Spirit and Leadership Award, which Larino accepted this year.
“The second I set foot onto the pool deck at St. Peter’s Prep, I could see he had an everlasting impression on the entire Prep community,” said Larino, a junior at St. Peter’s Prep. “He was so well known and talked about, so I felt like I knew him just from what everyone has told me about him.”
Word of Giannone’s death reached Larino and his family at a swim meet when Larino was in 5th Grade. “It went through the whole swim community. It was a very big deal,” said CeeJay’s father, Tony.
From what Larino has heard, Giannone was kind, funny, smart, and an outstanding athlete. He was also on the baseball team and committed to attending Virginia Tech the following fall. So, when his teammates voted for him to receive the award, Larino felt a greater sense of responsibility.
“It was such an honor for me. I was astounded receiving it. But I couldn’t just accept it,” said Larino, who thought the usual 5k walk to raise awareness insufficient.“I needed to do something more.”
Larino’s idea was to raise awareness by learning and sharinga skill that could benefit people like B.J. So, Larino called McCabe Ambulance Service to organize a CPR class for the community. After advertising the class in local papers and online, Larino held the class on November 4. Attendees included classmates, coaches, teammates, teachers, and local Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops.
“I initiated the class to bring awareness to any kind of heart disease to prevent any kind of future tragedies from happening.” – CeeJay Larino
Young people at risk
“Kudos to a high school student putting that together on his own,” said Michael McCabe of McCabe Ambulance, and a St. Peter’s Prep alumnus. “It was great because it brings awareness to problems of cardiac disease, how to prevent it and be aware of it. I think it was a successful class that people picked stuff up from.”
McCabe knows all too well the risks that come with heart disease and congenital heart defects, and appreciates Larino’s challenging the idea that heart problems afflict only older people.
“It’s not always going to be an elderly person having cardiac arrests,” said McCabe. “With adolescents, these things can rear their ugly heads. We’re seeing more and more of these kinds of things on the sports field.”
McCabe said that the increased use of public access defibrillators attached to the walls of many public buildings are evidence of an increased awareness about the risks of heart disease. Thanks to Larino’s class, for which McCabe provided instruction and manikins, many more people in the community will be able to use them.
Said Larino, “I initiated the class to bring awareness to any kind of heart disease to prevent any kind of future tragedies from happening.”
Next year, Larino will pass down the award to another student, who will be tasked with demonstrating his or her leadership in the spirit of B.J. Giannone. “I am going to instill in them what I have initiated,” Larino said. “They will take it into their own hands, like I did.”
Rory Pasquariello can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.