If you haven’t personally met Phyllis Sudman, Director of Client Services at eBay Enterprise (seen in the orange dress in the center of the photo), you may have seen her on the TODAY Show or CNN. She was featured on these shows talking about a foundation that she runs called Simon’s Fund.
Simon’s Fund, which provides free heart screening, was launched after Phyllis’ infant son, Simon, passed away from sudden cardiac arrest. In the following interviews, Phyllis discusses the foundation, what she has learned running it and the tremendous support she has received from her colleagues.
Please tell us about your son Simon and how you came to launch Simon’s Fund.
Simon was a seemingly healthy baby boy. He scored eight and nine on his APGAR test and was average for height and weight. He smiled for the first time at 47 days, and died in his sleep fifty days later.
The first prognosis was SIDS, but that just means "we don't know why your baby died."
Fortunately, our pediatrician was wiser than most and she told us to get our hearts checked. As a result, I was diagnosed with a heart condition called Long QT Syndrome that can cause sudden cardiac arrest. It is also responsible for up to 15 percent of all SIDS deaths.
We learned quickly that sudden cardiac isn't just an adult thing. It happens to kids in the classroom, and more commonly, kids on the playing fields.
That's when we decided that to provide free heart screenings for students because the medical community wasn't doing it.
What is Simon’s Fund focused on?
Simon's Fund is focused on three things: raising awareness about conditions that lead to sudden cardiac arrest and death in children through advocacy and marketing campaigns; preventing sudden cardiac arrest in children through free heart screenings; and promoting research through the development of a national youth cardiac registry. The registry will be launched this fall.
Do any memorable experiences from your time running the fund come to mind?
There are many memorable experiences, but they are trumped by the memorable encounters. The Fund has been behind the passage of the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Prevention Act in five states. There are more states coming.
We have screened almost 10,000 students, helping to identify heart conditions in about 70 students.
However, the people we've met and the stories we've heard along the way have really made this journey extremely meaningful. We are changing lives and making sure that another family does not have to go through what we did.
Has your work with eBay Enterprise helped your efforts in running Simon’s Fund?
eBay Enterprise has been a tremendous supporter of Simon's Fund. We've received a grant toward heart screenings.
More importantly, I've been so touched by the actions of my colleagues. At our last gala in February, there were forty-nine people from eBay Enterprise in attendance. That level of support blows me away.
What advice would you give to people considering launching a charitable cause?
I think that launching a charitable cause requires the right blend of passion and sense. Passion is contagious. It gets people to care about your cause.
However, too much passion can turn people away. Sense is needed to make rationale and strategic choices. It helps deploy the passion in the right places. Nevertheless, too much sense can dilute the passion and diminish the impact. It is a balancing act.
Editor’s Note: You can find more information on Simon’s Fund here.