Thursday, October 21, 2021

New foundation gets to heart of matter

To Isabella Lohr, Dylan Dorrell wasn’t just some kid she occasionally passed in the halls at Guyer High School and exchanged quick hellos with before heading off to her next class. They’d known each other since they were toddlers and lived on the same street for many years. They played hide-and-seek, tag, and always enjoyed a good water slide.

Their families celebrated birthdays and holidays together. Even their siblings, Jake and Sophia, were good friends.

“[Dylan] was my first friend,” said Isabella, now 16 years old and a junior. “Even when we moved, we stayed in contact with each other. He was a year older than me and in many ways was a role model for me.”

These days, Isabella would give anything to see Dylan in the hallways — even if only for a brief moment. On Aug. 13, 2020, Isabella and the entire Denton ISD community were rocked to their core when Dylan tragically passed away. Long known for his love of running, Dylan collapsed after finishing a workout with his Wildcats cross country teammates at South Lakes Park in Denton. He was found unresponsive in a nearby restroom, and efforts to revive him failed.

He was pronounced dead at a local hospital, and his family found out that it was due to an undiagnosed heart condition.

Isabella would love nothing more than to honor Dylan’s legacy, keep his spirit alive for years to come, and, more importantly, ensure young athletes everywhere have the resources they need to receive life-saving heart screenings. To accomplish this, Isabella, with help from Dylan’s parents, Gus and Lisa Dorrell, and the #runforDylan Foundation, is spearheading the first-annual #runforDylan 5K.

The #runforDylan Foundation focuses on providing heart screenings and CPR training to athletes and promoting Cardiac Arrest Awareness through scholarships and community outreach education.

They’ve certainly been busy over the past year generating awareness, but this 5K is their first event under Dylan’s name.

The 5K and 1-mile fun run is slated for 8:30 a.m. on Nov. 6 at Blanton Elementary in Lantana, and registration is currently ongoing. Approximately 74 runners have signed up, and the expectation is that there will be more than 200 by race day. The event will have food trucks, music, sponsor tables, face painting, raffles, and more.

A huge coup is that the American Heart Association plans to set up a booth to provide CPR demos, blood pressure screenings, and pass out literature. The long-term goal is to use the proceeds from the 5K and future events to place standalone computerized defibrillators called AEDs at every city park in Denton, starting with South Lakes. Conversations with city officials are already underway, and at least one AED was ordered and donated to Guyer’s cross country team.

CPR kits were also donated in Dylan’s name by the American Heart Association.

“Dylan’s parents are sponsors for the run, and they have been completely supportive of this. The school and the school district are also onboard with the event, too,” Isabella said. “With Sudden Cardiac Arrest Awareness Month being in October, this is just a great opportunity to spread awareness.”

Gus Dorrell agreed, adding that students like Isabella have been the key to honoring his son’s legacy.

“The Guyer cross country team has always meant so much to me and always will, but from the football team to soccer, softball, band, etc. … they all want to honor our son,” Gus said. “That’s a lot of buy-in from a lot of kids. And overall, the love, support, and compassion we’ve received — I can’t put words on it. This [5K] is our springboard. And with so many people willing to help, it just feels right. We do have some big goals, but this is step one.”

Lisa Dorrell added, “When this first happened, our minds weren’t in the right place. But we knew we wanted to do a 5K. Isabella was willing to spearhead it, and we’re going to be here to help her every step of the way.”

The idea for #runforDylan started innocently enough two days after Dylan’s death. Lisa needed to clear her head and put a post on Facebook that she was headed out to “run for Dylan.” The next day, Isabella’s mother, Renee, gifted Lisa a t-shirt with the hashtag #runforDylan on it. Lisa immediately shared a photo of the shirt on social media, and before she could blink, everyone was asking to buy one.

Since then, the #runforDylan Foundation has been involved in everything from helping promote free youth heart screenings to giving out awards to students at Adkins Elementary in Lantana for learning hands-on CPR through the Kids Heart Challenge. The Run Lantana 5K and 10K slated for September 25 has named #runforDylan as its beneficiary, and on August 13, the community came together for a walk in remembrance of Dylan on the one-year anniversary of his death.

“We have bracelets that say #runforDylan, and we’ve been giving them out to anyone who wants one,” Gus added.

In the meantime, Isabella has been hard at work making sure the upcoming 5K goes off without a hitch. She created a Facebook page for the 5K to help get the message out, and after a family friend was nice enough to gift them the domain, runforDylan.com, Gus and Lisa gave her the rights to design an entire website from scratch.

She also managed to have a successful Zoom meeting with the American Heart Association.

“We watched our kids grow up with Isabella, and she was always so kind-hearted,” Gus said. “Just watching her grow up, you could just tell she was going to be a special young lady.”

As a side note, a successful 5K that lives on for years to come could net Isabella, a Girl Scout for the past 11 years, the prestigious Gold Award. Less than 6% of all senior Girl Scouts have achieved the Gold Award.

“I’ve always felt the need to help others, and I’ve gained a lot of experience in my 11 years as a Girl Scout,” Isabella said. “It just means a lot to me to do this project for Dylan. I think the website that has really helped us reach a bigger audience.”

To sign up for the #runforDylan 5K or learn more about how you can become a sponsor, visit www.runforDylan.com.

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