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Mary Beth Schewitz of Lake Bluff had an “if only” moment six years ago after her healthy and active son, Max, collapsed while working at the Wildlife Discovery Center in Lake Forest. Max suffered from Sudden Cardiac Death (SCD), a condition commonly due to an irregular heartbeat that claims over 4,000 lives under age 35 each year. If only Max had an EKG test, a non-invasive test that checks for cardiac conditions, perhaps his life might have been saved.
But why would a perfectly fit 20-year-old make an appointment with a cardiologist to have an EKG when he was symptomless? The answer turns out to be exactly to Schewitz’s point: Most young adults who die do not have recognized prior symptoms.
Shortly after her son’s death, Schewitz began her own fight to curb SCD. She founded The Max Schewitz Foundation and within it began Screens for Teens, a cardiac screening program where Schewitz, cardiologists, and a group of volunteers visit area schools and administer free EKG tests to students. To date, more than 18,300 tests have been given, and 238 students had EKG results that required further medical evaluation. The Foundation is committed to screening as many students as they can each year. “At the end of every screening, as we load all our equipment back into my station wagon, the last thing to go in is Max’s picture,” explains Schewitz. “I’m always bittersweet at that moment knowing our testing has saved other children, but no testing was offered to save my son’s life.”
To fund this testing and to celebrate Max’s life and his love—the conservation of fragile reptilian ecosystems and species—the Foundation hosts Maxtravaganza at Lake Forest Sportscars. With Sheridan Road as the print media sponsor, the evening includes the opportunity for up close and personal encounters with hot sports cars, silent and live auctions, appetizers, drinks, and dinner designed by Chef John des Rosiers of Inovasi in Lake Bluff. But this event is more than just a fund-raiser. “Maxtravaganza is a time for reunion. Max’s friends, school administrators, parents who benefited from our testing, relatives, and business associates return and reconnect there,” explains Schewitz. “We, have a lot of fun, raise funds to continue our work, shed a few tears, hug good-bye, and promise to meet again next year.”
To purchase tickets to Maxtravaganza, visit maxandthewildthings.com. To involve your school in the Screens for Teens program, have your school’s administration contact the Foundation. Testing is free to high schools within The Max Schewitz donor area.