How a Cross-Country Bike Ride Honored a Fallen Friend, Raised Funds for Cardiac Screening and AEDs

The heat was at times brutal. One day his temperature gauge actually read 114 degrees. Yet Derek Blalock continued to pedal. In all, he traveled 6,500 miles on his Trek bike, traversing 23 states, including a stop at the Grand Canyon, all to honor the memory of a high school friend and raise thousands of dollars to help prevent deaths from sudden cardiac arrest (SCA).

Derek Blalock is not your average college student. Or friend.

A Michigan State University student, Blalock biked across the country this summer to remember his friend, Tommy Smith, who died in January 2011 at age 17. Smith–”an outgoing, fun-loving guy,” recalls Blalock–suffered SCA due to an undiagnosed heart condition and died at his family’s home. Blalock and Smith had been classmates at Flushing High School in Flushing, Mich., and roommates at football camp. After his friend’s death, Blalock was involved in several fundraising events for the Tommy Smith Memorial Foundation. He wanted to do more, and the idea for the bike ride evolved.

Blalock’s ride began and ended in Charlestown, S.C., and average 85 miles a day bike. Along the way, he raised more than $15,000 to help the foundation fund heart screenings and automated external defibrillators (AEDs).

After 78 days on the road, Blalock celebrated his homecoming at a minor league baseball game in South Carolina with the team the Greenville Drive. At that game, Cardiac Science donated a Powerheart® G5 AED that the foundation will award to a high school.

“What we did in Tommy’s memory has helped a lot of people already,” Blalock said. “I talked with hundreds of people I met — at gas stations, restaurants, baseball games, everywhere — about the importance of getting their children’s hearts checked. We did a lot of education.”

Derek Blalock at the Dallas Regional Medical Center

In Dallas the foundation sponsored a free heart screening at the Dallas Regional Medical Center, where the CEO donated funds to pay for an AED, Blalock said.

Smith’s family created the foundation in their son’s memory to fund cardiac screening for middle and high school students. The foundation donates AEDs and funds mobile cardiac screening equipment to perform EKGs.

“About 2,000 kids under the age of 25 pass away each year from sudden cardiac arrest,” Blalock said. During the final weeks of his ride, he heard about young people who died in Kansas City, Missouri and in Fort Collins, Colorado.

More than 160 people contributed to the campaign on his page, including many people Blalock met during his ride.

“People don’t know how important it is to get kids screened,” he said. “We’re trying to change that.”

At the Heart of Saving Lives™
Cardiac Science develops, manufactures and markets Powerheart® brand automated external defibrillators (AEDs) and related services that facilitate successful deployments. Part of the Opto Circuits Family.