WINTER GARDEN The students at Foundation Academy are a little bit safer, thanks to a generous donation from the Jesse Watlington Memorial Foundation.
Earlier this fall, the foundation donated a WeatherBug Lightning Alert System to the school, and it was officially activated during a short ceremony Dec. 12 at the school’s South Campus.
“We’ve had the WeatherBug (application on our phones) but never had the lighting detection,” said Luanne Lumpkins, director of advancement at Foundation Academy. “The app on your phone sends alerts, but the warning system is far better because you could lay your phone down or you walk away (from from your phone) or have it on silent. So it’s helped a lot.”
The Jesse Watlington Memorial Foundation was created by the Chuck and Alda Watlington after their son, Jesse, was struck by lightning during a football practice in 2012 at a private school in Fort Myers. When Jesse was struck, the school’s portable lightning-detection system had not been turned on, and Jesse was left on the field for several minutes before CPR was performed. After four days on life support in a coma, Jesse died.
To prevent any other children from getting struck by lightning in Florida, Chuck and Alda have contacted private schools from all across Florida to provide them with appropriate lightning-detections systems. They focus strictly on private schools because public schools receive funding from the government.
“They don’t want anybody else to go through what they went through,” Lumpkins said. “If certain procedures had been in place, their son would be alive today.”
Foundation Academy is one of 28 schools that has received a donated WeatherBug Lightning Alert System from the foundation.
Each system is installed on the roof of the school and can detect lightning within an 10-mile radius. When lightning is detected, an alarm sounds that can be heard all across the school. It sounds similar to an alarm at a firestation, Lumpkins said.
Foundation Academy was approached by the foundation several months ago and was thrilled to receive the donation.
“They’re very expensive (detection systems), so it’s amazing they did this out of the goodness of their hearts,” Lumpkins said.
Although the official donation ceremony wasn’t until Dec. 12, the system had been activated a few weeks beforehand and has already seen some action.
Storms in November triggered the alarm and sent the students and staff scurrying for cover.
“It’s a warning for our kids,” Lumpkins said. “They do not leave; they do not go outside; they do not change classes. If they’re on the P.E. fields, they come in immediately.”
And if the alarm sounds at the end of the school day, parents have to park their cars and come inside to come pickup their children.
At the end of the day, it’s all about staying safe.
“It’s already helped us a lot,” Lumpkins said.
Contact Brittany Gaines at [email protected].