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Gomes lends an assist to fighting heart disease

The Timberwolves forward will donate a defibrillator for use at a recreation center here.

Ryan Gomes is a third-year forward for the Minnesota Timberwolves who is still finding his way in the NBA, but he has reached superstar status in the minds of those who are helping to spread the word about sudden cardiac arrest.

When the Timberwolves visit the 76ers tonight at the Wachovia Center, Gomes, through his nonprofit foundation, Hoops for Heart Health, and two other organizations, will donate a defibrillator to the AM8 Foundation, sponsored by Sixers assistant coach Aaron McKie.

The defibrillator, which costs about $1,500, will be used at the Belfield Recreation Center, at 2109 Chew Ave.

Philadelphia is the sixth of 12 NBA cities in which Gomes, in conjunction with Parent Heart Watch and the Cardiac Science Corp., will make a donation to schools, athletic facilities or recreation centers.

Cardiac Science, based in Bothell, Wash., makes the defibrillators. Parent Heart Watch is a state-by-state nonprofit organization whose goal is to increase the awareness of sudden cardiac arrest.

Sudden cardiac arrest is not a heart attack, although it is a condition in which the heart stops abruptly and unexpectedly, and no longer pumps blood.

According to the American Heart Association, more than 325,000 Americans die each year from it. The Pediatric Clinic of North America estimates that it kills 7,000 to 10,000 children each year.

"Ryan is so genuine and committed to this cause," said Rachel Moyer, the cofounder and president of Parent Heart Watch. "I can't say enough about what it has meant to have him helping us."

Moyer also praised the 76ers, who, as part of AED/CPR Awareness Night, will have Parent Heart Watch set up tables at the game, handing out brochures and information about sudden cardiac arrest. (AED stands for automated external defibrillator; CPR for cardiopulmonary resuscitation.)

Members of the American Heart Association and the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia's Youth Heart Watch will be at the game to support the cause.

Lawrence Cohen, the Sixers' vice president of sales, said a portion of certain ticket sales would go toward defibrillator purchases for local schools and recreation centers.

"The 76ers have been unbelievably cooperative," Moyer said. "It helps so much when the home team is participating."

When he was with the Boston Celtics before being traded to Minnesota in the Kevin Garnett deal, Gomes was looking for a cause to champion with his foundation. Gomes' former AAU coach, Wayne Simone, said one of his ex-players, Stanley Myers, died of sudden cardiac arrest in May 2005 as a student at Morgan State.

Not long after that, Gomes saw Moyer profiled on NBC's


. Moyer formed Parent Heart Watch in 2002, two years after sudden cardiac arrest, or SCA, claimed the life of her 15-year-old son, Gregory.

Gomes contacted Moyer, and they joined forces.

Gomes, who entered last night's game against Washington averaging 8.8 points and 4.2 rebounds, said his involvement in the cause is gratifying.

"We're trying to save the next person and getting the word out," he said in a telephone interview. "The awareness of SCA is very important."

McKie, in his first year as a Sixers assistant coach after a 13-year playing career, appreciates the donation to his foundation.

"It means a lot," said McKie, who knows firsthand the importance of a defibrillator. "They had to use a defibrillator on me. I had an irregular heartbeat, and in order to get your heartbeat back in rhythm, they have to shock you with the defibrillator."

McKie missed two games in 2001, while a Sixer, because of his irregular heartbeat.

Gomes said donating the defibrillator to McKie's foundation was an easy decision.

"They have a rec center and don't have a defibrillator, and I think people have to realize how important it is to have one on hand," Gomes said.

If there is a defibrillator on the property, "you increase the chances of survival up to 70 percent," Moyer said. "It's important that people know that."


Forward Rodney Carney (flu) and guard Lou Williams (toe) did not practice yesterday. Carney's availability for tonight's game will determined today. Williams, who is undergoing treatment, said he expected to give it a go.