One year after cardiac arrest, Damar Hamlin reflects on impact of millions of donations

CINCINNATI — It’s been one year since Damar Hamlin collapsed on the field during a Monday Night Football game between the Cincinnati Bengals and Buffalo Bills.

Immediately following Hamlin’s cardiac arrest, the city of Cincinnati and the rest of the country rallied around the Bills safety, doing everything they could to help his Chasing M’s Foundation.

At the time, the foundation was raising money for a community toy drive for the children in his hometown of McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania. The goal was a modest $2,500.

In just two days, more than $6 million had been raised from more than 212,000 donors.

Now, exactly one year later, Chasing M’s Foundation is doing much more than a single community toy drive. Hamlin posted on his foundation’s GoFundMe page to thank donors and detail the work they have been able to do with the millions donated.

“As a donor to my charity, I didn’t want to let the New Year begin without reaching out personally to thank you,” Hamlin wrote. “This past year has been an incredible journey for my family and I, and the growth of my charity — through the generosity of people like you — is a great blessing to me.”

Hamlin said in addition to his fourth annual toy drive, Chasing M’s was able to do a back-to-school drive and Thanksgiving turkey drive for his community.

Following the life-changing event that occurred last year, Hamlin’s foundation also put a focus on CPR training and education. The Bills training staff and local emergency responders who helped save Hamlin’s life used both CPR and an AED to revive him on the field the night of his cardiac arrest.

Last year, Chasing M’s traveled through Buffalo, Pittsburgh, London and Cincinnati with the American Heart Association to teach hands-only CPR and distribute AEDs to youth sports organizations.

“One of the things that has inspired me most is the real-life stories of people who were inspired to be CPR trained because of my experience, then turned around and saved the life of another this year,” Hamlin wrote. “It’s a blessing to be a blessing, and I’m so grateful to have this platform to give back to others, like people have done for me growing up.”

Hamlin even traveled to Capitol Hill in March to push for new legislation that would increase access to AEDs in schools. He said he plans to continue his “CPR Tour” and advocate AED legislation in 2024.

To honor the 10 “Cincinnati heroes” who helped save his life last year, Hamlin also launched a scholarship program supporting Cincinnati students who wish to attend a local private high school, trade school or university.

The program awards 10 $1,000 scholarships — one in the name of each of the people involved in Hamlin’s care — with a pledge for funding over a three-year period. The first round of scholarships is planned to be awarded in 2024.

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