WALKERTON — In July of 2018 Teresa and Robert Mago woke up to the greatest nightmare any parent could suffer.
Their son Zac passed away on July 5 of that year from sudden cardiac arrest one week shy of his 18th birthday.
An outstanding basketball player, student and friend to many Zac’s parents resolved to keep the memory of their son alive by doing all they could to help other parents to not have to go through what they did.
Sudden cardiac arrest that claimed Zac’s life is a silent killer that strikes many times with no signs or symptoms, most commonly among those you would least suspect of heart issues — athletes. Regular heart screenings for young athletes are important to early detection and prevention.
Zac’s family determined to make those screenings available to as many as possible and formed the Zac Mago Foundation to raise money for just that.
Teresa shared a story about her son that showed a bit of who he was to his family.
“We were flying on Southwest Airlines for vacation many years ago and the flight attendant said, ‘Secure your oxygen mask first and then pick your child with the most potential and work your way down,'” she said. “Zac turned to his siblings and said, ‘whelp, that’s me.'”
“He had a great sense of humor and his siblings were happy to let him put the stress on himself of being the child with the most potential,” said Teresa. “He truly is the child with the most potential because he is saving lives.”
The Zac Mago Foundation sponsors heart screening events around the region with their next scheduled screening on July 17 at the LaPorte Civic Auditorium from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The Foundation is planning a dinner and silent auction to help fund all their screening events on July 10 at the North Liberty VFW starting at 5:30 p.m. Cost is $25 with all proceeds going to the Foundation.
“We hope to raise $15,000 with this event,” said Teresa. “We have done over 600 screenings and look forward to our biggest screening yet on July 17.”
Helping other families avoid their loss was an easy decision for the Mago family.
“I can’t imagine not doing something to prevent others from experiencing the pain of losing a child to sudden cardiac arrest,” said Teresa. “Zac had a full heart exam with a pediatric cardiologist in 2014 and everything was normal. Something changed.”
“We want parents to know that one heart screening is not enough. It is #NotOneAndDone.”
Those wishing to help can purchase tickets for the event or donate online at https://zacmagofoundation.org/ or search Zac Mago Foundation on Facebook.