Posted by Jim Garrett
Ralph opened his presentations with an explanation of what had brought him to take on the mission of the organization, Who We Play For, dedicated to providing cardiac screening to students by administering electro-cardio grams (EKG).
Briefly, Ralph’s son, a gifted athlete, stricken by an undisclosed cardiac defect, collapsed on a Florida high school playing field in 2007 when only a sophomore, and died days later.  Three years afterward, Ralph explained, while several of his son’s buddies were students at Florida State University, they formed a foundation in his memory, Play for Rafe.
The group was dedicated to ensuring that school playing fields in the state would be equipped with Automatic External Defibrillators (AEDs).  In addition, it lobbied successfully to win passage in 2017 of a Florida law requiring high schools to offer CPR classes.  Today, Ralph said, his son’s former high school has a trainer with an AED present at all times playing fields are in use.
Eventually Play for Rafe merged with Who We Play For.  The organization to date has arranged for cardiac screening of nearly 114,000 students nationally, in seven states.  Upon moving to Pagosa several years ago, Ralph became the local mainstay of the group. 
The key to the screening, he explained, is the administration of an electro-cardiogram, a standard process for identifying cardiac issues, which is not included in a normal medical exam that students are ordinarily required to undergo before participating in high school sports.  A typical exam, he said, may have a 1 per cent chance of detecting a significant cardiac issue.  But with the addition of an EKG, the chance of detection rises to 90 per cent.
The test takes only a few minutes, and the results are read by volunteer cardiologists recruited by the group.  Results are stated as low, medium and high risk.  Those in the latter category need prompt follow-up examinations, and Who We Play For will make referrals.  One in 300 have conditions, Ralph stated, that could result in sudden death if untreated.
Several countries require screening for all students, he said.
Last year in the U.S., 72 students were found in the screenings to have problems needing immediate attention, Ralph told us.  He recalled a girl who was found to have the same issue as his son, and remembered her thanks to him, “for saving my life.”
This year, screening will be provided to Pagosa Springs Middle School students on May 17.  Ralph said that ideally screening should be administered to students both in middle school and high school, because of the physical development which occurs in adolescence.  But unfortunately, he added, the Pagosa Springs High School does not currently participate.
There is a cost of $20 for the screening, Ralph said, essentially the cost of the equipment, since the cardiologists are volunteers.  Ordinarily, he added, the test costs $150.
A concern is that some Pagosa students may decline to participate in the screening because of the cost.  Accordingly, Who We Play For is looking to raise funds to make sure that is not an issue.  $2500, Ralph said will pay for all of the local Middle School screenings.  The organization currently has $1000 available, and is hoping to raise the balance so the screening will be cost-free. 
Ralph said that those wishing to make donations can log on to the organization’s website,, and click on the “donate” button.  He suggested that local donors should include a reference to Pagosa Springs on the comments line when donating, so the funds will be used to support the local screening.