Kevin J. Major Tournament this weekend

WESTFIELD – When Kevin J. Major died tragically last summer, the athlete’s family was shocked to find out the 19 year-old had an undiagnosed heart condition.
Major drowned because he went into cardiac arrest while swimming in Southwick’s Congamond Lakes. A year later, Major’s family and friends are giving a gift to protect other young athletes who may also have undiagnosed heart conditions.
During the second annual Kevin J. Major Memorial Hockey Tournament at Amelia Park Ice Arena, the Kevin J. Major Foundation for Youth Sports will donate an automatic exterior defibrillator to Amelia Park Ice Arena tomorrow at noon. The critical life-saving device, valued at over $2,000, will be given in memory of Major, who grew up at Amelia Park Ice Arena playing with Westfield Youth Hockey, the Westfield Blades, and St. Mary’s High School. He later played for the Ice Cats.
Carol Appleton of Amelia Park Ice Arena said she knew Major for many years and was deeply affected by his sudden death. She said the arena is thrilled to receive the donation because of its potential to save lives.
“It’s something every ice rink should have,” Appleton said. “It could save a life – we hope we don’t need it but we can’t be too prepared.”
Major approached Appleton early last summer about forming an adult league for players 18 and over.
“He wanted to be able to skate close to home and have some friendly competition,” Appleton said.
After putting in much of the work, Major died before the league came to fruition. However, to continue his legacy, the league forged ahead in his honor.
The tournament began last night and continues through Sunday. Proceeds benefit the Kevin J. Major Foundation for Youth Sports. Teams in four divisions will compete for the Championship Trophy, and raffle prizes and a silent auction will be ongoing throughout the weekend.
Appleton said the tournament is extra special because of the wide span of ages that can skate and other opportunities to participate.
“The whole family is involved – Kevin’s dad can skate as well as his younger brother, even his grandmother is involved with the raffle,” Appleton said. “It’s been a great way for them to heal.”
Area businesses have also stepped up through donations to the tournament.
“We have businesses in Westfield, Southwick, even Southampton, involved,” she said.”And the athletes have said when they’re not playing, they want to volunteer.  It’s all in the spirit of Kevin – he was a giving person.”
According to the Parent Heart Watch organization, sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) kills over 300,000 Americans annually – often with no warning. Caused by structural or functional abnormalities of the heart, SCA must be treated immediately with defibrillation.
Appleton said heart screenings are also being planned for young athletes in the area. She said currently, there is no regular screening process and it is not required to play a sport. Appleton said a push is being made for legislation requiring heart screening for young athletes.
Beyond the defibrillator gifted to Amelia Park, the Kevin J. Major Youth Sports Foundation has, in its first year, already awarded scholarships to three area teen athletes: two from Holyoke and one from West Springfield.
Additionally, the foundation provides scholarships to the Western Massachusetts Div. IIIA Most Valuable Hockey Player, and, in coordination with the Springfield Rugby Club UI9 for which Major played, to a graduating senior who exemplifies Major’s winning attitude and sense of sportsmanship.

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