The power of the partnership between survivor advocates and injury prevention professionals far
exceeds the power of either working alone.


Carol Spizzirri 
Save A Life Foundation


Christina Spizzirri was 18, about to start college and working at a restaurant. She decided not to accompany her mother, two sisters and friends on a Labor Day weekend trip to Florida. On Labor Day night, September 7, 1992, Christina left work. On the way home, she was involved in a car crash that caused severe injuries and bleeding. The first people to arrive at the scene were local police officers, who waited for emergency medical service personnel to administer first aid. Christina bled to death before they arrived.


Carol Spizzirri, Christina’s mother, acknowledges that no one knows whether first aid or CPR could have saved Christina’s life. But she would have liked her to have had a chance.

Carol’s passion to assure first aid training and certification for public servants began almost immediately after Christina’s death, in response to an “inner voice” urging her to do so. “Christina’s death was a negative that I had to turn into a positive. This is what she would have wanted me to do.”(1)

Carol read the Coroners’ Inquest, and found out exactly how and why the police officers acted when they arrived on the scene of Christina’s crash. She identified major flaws in the training and certification of public servants. Illinois law did not require that police and fire personnel be trained in first aid or cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR), although many did so voluntarily. Current first aid and CPR certification was not required. Police departments, wary of law suits, discouraged their officers from rendering first aid.

Just two months after Christina’s death, Carol formed the Save A Life Foundation, and began her mission. She went to the state capital and recruited Representative Chuck Hartke to sponsor legislation. She wanted to mandate first aid and CPR training and regular re-certification for all front-line professionals, such as firefighters, 911 dispatchers, school teachers, nurses and coaches. At the first hearing she attended, they did not even call the bill. Undaunted, she prevailed in having a task force established to study the issue.

“No one was there to teach me how to lobby. I’m just a mother on a mission from God. Like the Blues Brothers.”(2) The second time she got smarter. She decided to do “just” police and firefighters. Senator Bob Raica got involved. She worked the halls, with Chrissy’s picture and fierce determination.

She contacted corporate presidents, union leaders, police and fire chiefs, and television stars to support her legislation. She got endorsements from the National Safety Council, the American Medical Association, several insurance companies, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Opponents argued that training would cost too much money.

She was persistent. State Representative Chuck Hartke has said: “I don’t think [Spizzirri] totally understands that not everyone has that as their No. 1 priority. Her persistence and her almost unbelievable simplistic approach is what is surprising.” “I had to convince every politician individually. I kept going back to every office because they would say: “Oh yeah, I agree”, but then do nothing.” (3)

In September, 1994, the Governor signed the law mandating that police officers and firefighters be trained in first aid and CPR before graduating from their academies. But she learned early on that you cannot mandate unless you have the money. So she went to Washington, DC. She convinced then Illinois Representative Dick Durbin to draft language to permit all states to use grant money from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to fund CPR and first aid training.

In 1995, the Save A Life Foundation collaborated with EMS departments in the Chicago area to develop two programs: Save A Life For Kids® for students ages 4 to 12; and Bystander Basics® for high school students. The Foundation supplies the materials and EMS/medical professionals teach the children. The Chicago Board of Education passed a resolution to include these programs in their school curriculum. Their content was used in developing the Basic Emergency Lifesaving Skills (BELS) Guidelines (DHHS/MCHB).

The accomplishments have exacted a high price. Her mission has drained about $67,000 from her personal savings; at one point, she was at risk of losing her home. She lost her accounting job at the district school. She worked out of her home office 7 days a week, it seemed 24 hours a day. She lost friendships with her neighbors, whom she said grew weary of her relentless crusading. And finally, in 1994, her marriage dissolved when she and her husband realized that they had to handle their grief in separate ways.

But the accomplishments are real. As the result of legislation which Carol Spizzirri initiated, all Illinois police officers and firefighters are mandated to receive a 18 hour first aid and CPR course prior to graduation from their academies. Illinois firefighters are now required to keep their skills current, although unfortunately, police are still not required to do so.

To offset this neglect of re-certification for police, she has developed the “Blue Angels” program. Local EMS providers have already trained thousands of police officers statewide in basic lifesaving emergency skills.

Carol continues to lead the Save A Life Foundation, and assists advocates in other states who want to have their public safety professionals and their children trained in basic lifesaving emergency skills.

(1) Chicago Tribune, March 8, 1993

(2,3) Chicago Tribune, January 16, 1995.



Save A Life Foundation, Inc.
9950 West Lawrence Avenue, Suite 300
Schiller Park, Illinois 60176
Tel: 847-928-9683; fax: 847-928-9684