ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) - Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin kicked off a multicity tour at his home stadium on Saturday to distribute medical equipment and promote techniques that helped save his life in January.
Hamlin handed out automated external defibrillators for close to 50 youth sports and community organizations on the Bills’ field at Highmark Stadium at the event launching his Chasing M’s Foundation CPR Tour.
The launch event included free CPR training for more than 1,000 people. Additional stops on Hamlin’s tour are planned for New York City, Pittsburgh, where Hamlin attended college, and Cincinnati, where six months ago Hamlin went into cardiac arrest and was resuscitated on the field during a game.
"Growing up playing sports, I never really remember ever thinking about where an AED was, or ever thinking about CPR training," Hamlin said during a brief speech. "I don’t ever remember a coach or a parent ever knowing where an AED was in a gym or stadium, or anywhere, for that matter.
"As we learned from my personal experience, it is very important and life-changing. This program is very important because it gives life-saving care to kids in their own communities and on the field."
Hamlin greeted youth football players and coaches for more than an hour, signing autographs, posing for photographs, tossing toy footballs and playing mini-golf with fans. Hamlin was accompanied by his parents, Mario and Nina, younger brother Damir, agents and marketing representatives.
The 25-year-old Hamlin has made it clear he plans to resume playing after being cleared by the Bills and several independent specialists. He has eased back into football activities during the Bills’ voluntary spring minicamps, performing individual drills without a helmet.
Hamlin’s collapse led to an outpouring of support from around the NFL and across North America, with donations made to his charitable organization topping more than $9 million. The Chasing M’s Foundation CPR Tour is the first program to use those funds.
"This is his legacy now," said Jordon Rooney, Hamlin’s marketing representative. "It helped save his life and he wants to help save as many other lives as possible. It’s not just about awareness. It’s rebranding the messaging so that everyone learns CPR, and everyone knows how to use an AED."
Along with the Chasing M’s Foundation CPR Tour, the Bills have partnered with the American Heart Association to provide hands-only CPR training events in western New York.
Jason Stulb, executive director of the American Heart Association for the Buffalo/Niagara region, said the purpose is "to turn a nation of bystanders into a nation of lifesavers."
Timely CPR intervention can double or triple a cardiac arrest victim’s chance of survival, according to the AHA.