Remembering Elijah: Family urges CPR policy change in wake of football players’ death

Family, friends and former teammates released blue and white balloons over the field where 12-year-old Elijah Brown-Garcia collapsed and became unresponsive last week while at football practice with his teammates from the Essex County Predators League.

News 12 Staff

Feb 18, 2023, 10:42 PM

Updated 522 days ago

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Family, friends and former teammates released blue and white balloons over at West Side Park Saturday where 12-year-old Elijah Brown-Garcia collapsed and became unresponsive last week while at football practice with his teammates from the Essex County Predators League.
Brown-Garcia was taken to University Hospital, where he died. According to the family, no one at the practice knew how to perform CPR and it took an ambulance over 30 minutes to get to the field.
"It hurts so bad and I'm so proud 'cause I know that he's watching down and he sees all these beautiful people out here and just supporting him and his death does not go out in vain," said Brown-Garcia's grandmother, Donna Brown.
Family members recalled memories they shared with Brown-Garcia, who they said was a friendly and enthusiastic boy.
"He was very energetic. He always wanted a solo, he wanted to sing, so it wasn't just all about football. He really loved music as well," said Brown-Garcia's choir director, Steve Lovell.
"Sweetest little boy you could ever imagine. Just so full of life, energetic and that smile, he just was unique in his own special way," said his aunt, Zeneida Garcia.
Brown-Garcia's family also wanted to spread awareness of the importance of knowing CPR and urged for a CPR policy change.
In New Jersey, youth sports programs not affiliated with schools like the Essex County Predators League are not required to be CPR certified.
"Anybody that oversees children should know how to do CPR and that's why we want to dedicate time and resources to allow any of the communities that want to know how to do CPR, we'll come out and train them," said Dirk Mckenney, of the Training Center RWJ Barnabas Health.
"It's not going to end here, there's going to be a law in place," Brown said. "I want everybody to sign up. I don't care if you're a part of any athletic activities, grandmas, aunts, uncles, mothers -- sign up to be certified because we never know when that time will come."
Raven Brown, Brown-Garcia's mother, spoke exclusively to News 12 New Jersey earlier this week and said her son did not have any previous medical issues. His cause of death has yet to be disclosed.
CPR kits were distributed to the community at the event.
"We're just trying to bring awareness to CPR, not just for sports, for people in general, people that have kids. You might be in the house one day and something happens. At least you know how to proceed with CPR until the ambulance gets there," Garcia stressed.
In 2014, Janet's Law was passed and it requires at least five school faculty members to be CPR and AED certified. The law also requires that all New Jersey schools have properly installed Automated External Defibrillators.
A proposed law to expand the requirement to private leagues was shut down in 2015.
The funeral for Brown-Garcia will be held on Tuesday.


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