BENTONVILLE — ESPN broadcaster Chris Mortensen silenced a room of clinking glasses and flatware with a statistic from the Centers for Disease Control: Over a 15-year period, more deaths can be attributed to heat-related illnesses than earthquakes, tornadoes, floods and hurricanes combined.
“There’s no excuse for it,” he said.
Mortensen, who has a home in Bella Vista, was the keynote speaker at the second annual Beat the Heat Luncheon, an event to kick off Heat Prevention Month (August). The affair Thursday (July 26) was hosted by the Kendrick Fincher Hydration Foundation, led by Rhonda Fincher, whose son died in August 1995 after falling ill on his first day of junior high football practice.
Rhonda Fincher remembers the day like it was yesterday.
“I had no idea what tragedy would be unfolding before my eyes,” she said.
Pulaski Academy graduate Will James, a more recent heat stroke survivor, described his brush with death following two days of football practice. He spent three weeks at Arkansas Children’s Hospital in 2010. James knew after a lousy day of practice “my body wasn’t prepared for practice that [second] day because of the day I’d had before.”
He remembered seeing another heat-affected football player, Tyler Davenport of Lamar, in the hospital’s intensive care unit, where he later died.
Rhonda Fincher remarked earlier that Davenport’s death was evidence that coaches and parents weren’t getting enough education on the topic, since the death toll of heat-related illnesses hadn’t stopped with her son’s passing.
Remarks for the cause also came from Danielle Many, board chairman of the Kendrick Fincher Foundation, and Heather Foitek, event chairman for the luncheon and an upcoming fundraiser gala for the foundation. Guests at the luncheon included Miss Lakes of the Northwest, Rebecca Wheeley, whose platform is the prevention of heat-related illness.