Oakland Co. 9-year-old raises $32K for CPR devices

Breana Noble
The Detroit News

Lucas Vetter walked into the Howell Area Fire Department in October 2018. Less than a year and $32,000 later, all four of the department’s stations have life-saving CPR devices because of the 9-year-old.

“I always like to help out people,” Lucas told The Detroit News ahead of presenting a second LUCAS (the brand name of the device) chest compression system to the Fire Department on Sunday. “I thought this was a way to help out people. That's where my dream started."

The Rose Township fourth grader, who has attracted international attention, led the way to raise $16,000 each for two of the devices from Kalamazoo’s Stryker Corp. They deliver consistent and continuous chest compressions when a person’s heart stops. The Vetters are less than $2,000 short of having the money fora third device — and are working to bring the devices to every fire station that needs one.

“The devices are a big deal,” said Howell Fire Chief Andrew Pless. “They deliver consistent CPR chest compressions, which is key to saving lives. Lucas has the wherewithal, the follow-through. We appreciate it very much."

Kerry Vetter, Lucas’ mother, took her three boys to tour the Fire Department a year ago while her husband’s commercial construction company was doing work on the station. During the tour, the family met firefighters and saw fire trucks, but it was the LUCAS device that caught Lucas’ eye, and not merely because of its name.

“I said, ‘Wow, that’s really cool,’” he said. “I got to see how it works. They told me they only had one, and they have four stations. I was thinking I could probably help them.”

He learned that the device frees firefighters, paramedics and medical technicians from having to switch every two minutes while performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation. The device also can operate while traveling in an ambulance, allowing the emergency responders to buckle up, which reduces risk of injury.

That was when Lucas began asking a lot of questions at the station and on the car ride home, Kerry Vetter said.

"You could tell it certainly did inspire him," she said. "That's when the adventure started."

At home, Lucas ran downstairs to his desk and on a now-laminated orange sheet of construction paper with a crayon, he drew up a "business plan" for how he was going to help the Fire Department buy more CPR devices.

"It melts my heart, and it makes me very proud," Vetter said. "I thought, my husband and I are doing something right, which is always good to know."

Lucas Vetter of Rose Township shakes hands with Capt. Annie Appleyard and other members of the Howell Fire Department. Appleyard said the device was used to save a life and she earned her Chain of Life certificate during the first week that her station had one of the LUCAS systems.

However, Vetter says: "I pointed it out to Lucas that $16,000 is a lot of money, but $1 is better than none. I had no idea what we were doing."

After notifying Pless of her son's plans, she contacted her accountant, the only person the family knew in Howell. Lucas gave a presentation at the firm about what the device was and what he wanted to do. He walked away with his first $10 bill.

Since then, Lucas has made pitches to other businesses with a demonstration device Stryker provided, and the family has held fundraisers at restaurants. In May, he gave Howell its second device after he raised enough money in an August charity golf outing for which Lucas and his brothers went door to door to businesses for prizes to raffle. The Vetter Family Organization Inc. received official nonprofit status last month.

Lucas also will make a 12-minute presentation at the Hero Round Table on Oct. 28-29 in Hartland Township on his work. The conference, which is held two to three times a year around the world, attracts international scholars, business professionals and other leaders, and audiences of around 300 people. A previous speaker recommended Lucas to the organizers.

"He's young," said Matt Langdon, the conference's founder, who noted the organization usually invites a couple of children to present at each roundtable. "That can be really inspiring. It goes to show that anyone can make a difference if they choose to do so."

It's exciting, Lucas said, but despite the presentations he has made, "I'm probably going to be really nervous," he said.

The Vetters have several more fundraisers for devices slated for Hartland and Hamburg townships scheduled later this year. The Howell Fire Department is buying a fourth device.

Kerry Vetter said the nonprofit is raising funds based on interest and need in other communities, she said.

"If the fire department is in need and wants some help, pick up the phone and give us a call. We will start to work with you," Kerry Vetter said.

"It just kind of started," Lucas said. "Now, it’s not stopping.”

How to donate 

The Vetter Family Organization can be reached at (248) 767-0511. It also takes PayPal donations at lucasforlucascpr@gmail.com.


Twitter: @BreanaCNoble