EUGENE, Ore. — In a sea of yellow and green at Autzen, a group of volunteers stick out in their red jackets.
While fans are clapping and cheering for the Ducks, these volunteers are on their toes and ready to help, From handing out a band-aid to saving a life.
It’s all part of the FAST program through the American Red Cross.
“The First Aid Service Team is a group of adult mentors and high school students who are trained in CPR and first aid. We respond as first responders to medical incidents at medical events,” said Michael Harman, an adult volunteer with the program.
“We have volunteers throughout the spectrum. We have students in high school, who do have the baseline training and then we have adults and college students, like myself, who might be an EMT, a nurse, or even a paramedic,” said Gabriel Wihtol, a college student who has volunteered since high school.
Wihtol has been volunteering for four years and he says the program has helped him discover something he loves.
“I’ve been coming back every year. It’s inspired me to follow a path of higher medical practice, so I’m in the University of Portland School of Nursing as a freshmen,” said Wihtol.
His peers agree.
“I want to be a firefighter paramedic when I grow up. It’s been a lifelong passion and when I came to Eugene, there were not a lot of opportunities and when I found the American Red Cross, it was something special to me,” said Sam Vasquez, a junior at South Eugene High School and volunteer with the FAST program.
“As far as we know, this is the only program in the country that uses high school students to respond to first aid incidents at football games,” said Harman.
The volunteers say this is a unique opportunity for students to learn but at the end of the day, they take away far more than just the medical knowledge.
“It’s the greatest opportunity of your life to be able to help people,” said Vazquez.
“The life lessons it gives you and helping my community is definitely what it’s all about,” said Wihtol.