Founder of The Max Schewitz Foundation Named 2014 Chicago Volunteer Citizen of the Year

Mary Beth Schewitz wins award for efforts to find young adults at risk from condition that claimed her son's life

Chicago, IL (June 10, 2014) - In its second year, Direct Energy and Tribune Media Group's Chicago Volunteer Citizen of the Year award program is honoring Mary Beth Schewitz, the founder of The Max Schewitz Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting education, prevention, and research of sudden cardiac death (SCD) in young people. Schewitz launched the foundation after her son, Max's, untimely death from sudden cardiac arrest in 2005 when he was only 20 years old. In addition, the foundation also seeks to support environmental conservation, a lifelong interest of Max Schewitz's.

After learning that a painless, non-invasive EKG test could detect about 60 percent of the markers for conditions that can lead to SCD, and that routine, preventative EKG testing of young adults is not a standard of care, she established The Max Schewitz Foundation to fill that gap. Her Screens for Teens initiative has provided nearly 45,000 EKG tests and 438 free echocardiograms to students at north suburban Chicago high schools and colleges to find that 838 students had an abnormality that required further medical evaluation.

When told of the award Schewitz said, "While this award goes to just one person, it reflects the work of many, many others. I'm honored to search for at-risk students in my son's name. To be the one selected from a worthy field of Chicago area volunteers is a dream I never thought would happen."

In addition to providing EKG testing, Schewitz has distributed a summary of journal articles about the preventative role of EKG testing to more than 1,600 Lake County, Illinois, physicians' offices, as well as a sudden cardiac risk assessment questionnaire for those physicians to discuss with their patients. She has been integral in developing educational videos, bookmarks, and other materials, and coordinates hundreds of volunteers to help conduct school-wide EKG screenings.

"It is our honor to recognize someone like Mary Beth Schewitz. It is remarkable that she and her husband endured such a tragic loss of their son, Max, but Mary Beth turned a negative into a positive by establishing a foundation in her son's name. Her dedication to the education and prevention of sudden cardiac arrest is remarkable," said David Hindman, general manager of Direct Energy's residential business. "We applaud Mary Beth for going above and beyond to ensure that others have a better quality of life."

By winning the Chicago Volunteer Citizen of the Year award, The Max Schewitz Foundation will receive a $5,000 donation from Direct Energy. The donation will be used to help offset the purchase of another portable ultrasound machine to provide more free echocardiograms at each test site.

A special event honoring Schewitz will be held at Elawa Farm, 1401 Middlefork Dr., Lake Forest, IL, 60045 on Tuesday, June 17, 2014 from 6 to 7 p.m. In addition, the Foundation's annual fundraiser takes place June 21, 2014 at Lake Forest Sportscars. Tickets can be purchased at www.maxandthewildthings.com.

Last year, Direct Energy and Tribune Media Group honored Dr. Charles "Charlie" Martinez, the founder of the Old Irving Park Community Clinic. The clinic is a free primary care facility created on the belief that all people, regardless of socio-economic status, have the right to quality health care. Its mission is to provide quality medical and behavioral health care in a dignified and respectful manner to local uninsured individuals and their families.

For further information, please contact:
Andrea Romo
Direct Energy
andrea.romo@directenergy.com
412-667-5207

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