Recognizing Toronto’s Invaluable First Responders

By Akasha Di Tomasso –

On August 29th, 2013 Dwayne Harrison, a twenty-three year old George Brown College basketball player was playing a pick-up game when he collapsed on the court at Lawrence Heights Community Centre. Harrison had gone into sudden cardiac arrest.

Ted Rennie, a Toronto Parks, Forestry and Recreation custodian was nearby and immediately called 911. Luckily, Ted had also been trained as a part of Toronto EMS’ Safe City program. That training, in combination with the assistance he received from a bystander and Toronto Emergency Medical Dispatcher Rocky Ruffolo, helped Ted perform CPR and utilize the community centre’s Automated External Defibrillator to resuscitate Dwayne.

En route to Sunnybrook Hospital, Toronto EMS Paramedics Jose Araujo and Kyle Romany continued to provide Harrison the care that would save his life.

“Every morning, every day it hits me. I think of what happened and how people – friends and strangers – did things to keep me alive,” said Harrison.

Dwayne Harrison thanks Ted Rennie, Kyle Romany and Jose Araujo for saving his life


Stories like Harrison’s perfectly illustrate why First Responders continue to be one of the Toronto Raptors valued community partners. The incredible men and women of Toronto Emergency Medical Services, Toronto Police Service, and Toronto Fire Service protect and serve the Toronto community and allow our city’s athletes young and old to pursue their dreams in safety.

The Raptors are honoured to host their second annual First Responders Awareness Night on Friday, March 14th when the team takes on the Memphis Grizzlies to thank these individuals for support they provide our community every day.


The Raptors and David De Freitas, Director of Community and Sports Partnerships are proud to welcome the Deputy Chiefs of Toronto Police Service, Toronto Fire Service and Toronto Emergency Medical Services to courtside seats during the game.

To kick off the game, two representatives from Toronto Police Service and Toronto Fire Service are set to bear the Canadian and American flags while Leo Leach of Toronto Emergency Services performs the national anthems. Six members from each First Responder group will look on from suites the Raptors have donated for the evening.


There will also be a special guest watching the game from these suites. Toronto EMS continues to demonstrate their true generosity by giving Harrison the opportunity to be a part of the experience.

“The employees of Toronto EMS are honoured to be able to serve the residents of Toronto in the times when they are in greatest medical need,” says Kim McKinnon of Toronto EMS, “We are grateful to the Raptors and Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment for honouring our service with the Second First Responder Recognition Night and wanted to share this opportunity with youth who would otherwise not have the opportunity to attend a game the privilege to be there and to interact with other first responder services.“

After saving Dwayne’s life, Toronto EMS is continuing to support his passion for the game of basketball by donating a seat in their suite to Harrison for the evening.

Toronto EMS’ Deputy Chief Communications said, “Dwayne is a remarkable young man. He survived a cardiac arrest in the fall of 2013 and is willing to share his story so that others can be helped. He is helping us to spread the word to the public about the importance of bystander cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

“If you see someone in trouble do three simple things: 1) call 911 for the paramedics, 2) start hands-only CPR push hard and fast on the chest until the paramedics arrive to the beat of the song “Stayin’ Alive” 3) ask for the public access defibrillator and follow the instructions to give a life-saving shock.”

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