In January of 2005, Phil Sontag, a senior high school student in Erie Pennsylvania, collapsed during a CYO (Catholic Youth Organization) basketball game and later died from sudden cardiac arrest. The parochial school gymnasium where Phil was playing was not equipped with an Automated External Defibrillator (AED). Like most of the parochial schools in Erie, there simply was not enough money available to provide for this lifesaving device.
John William Hill believed that if the St. George School gymnasium was equipped with an AED, Phil’s life might have been saved. This motivated Hill to begin thinking of ways to raise money to purchase an AED for St. George’s School. Hill was fortunate to receive some publicity to create more awareness for his cause, and in February 2005 a local television station interviewed John regarding his endeavors.
Hill made 200 DVD’s of the television segment. He sent them to family, friends, and local business owners along with a letter, in which he offered to contribute 10% of his summer wages earned by life guarding at a local pool, busing tables for a local restaurant and working for a caterer. He asked individuals to match his contribution so the goal could be met.
Through his innovative and compassionate efforts, Hill raised in excess of $16,300 to buy nine AED’s for Erie’s Parochial Schools. When the local paper reported the story, Hill’s quote reflected the self-effacing compassion he has exhibited throughout his life. Hill said, “That machine could have saved Phil’s life. I don’t want anybody to have to go through that kind of tragedy again.”
Because of his dedication and untiring efforts, Hill has been nominated for numerous awards. St. Vincent Hospital, the local hospital coordinating the purchase, installation and training for the AED’s awarded John the first ever Young Philanthropist of the Year Award. Hill, along with Phil’s father is happy that something positive has come from the sudden loss of this young man. Through Hill’s efforts, there are now nine permanent AED’s in local parochial school gymnasiums. The entire Erie community, including the student athletes who utilize the facilities are safer as a result of Hill’s service.