Resilient Women – Michele Snyder

Michele Snyder’s daughter, Jenny, was just going to soccer practice. The beautiful, vibrant 17-year-old was about to start her senior year at Glenbrook North and had just returned home from a day working at a boutique in downtown Northbrook.

Jenny spent the little time she had at home before her evening soccer practice with her mom.

“Mom, please sit with me while I eat,” Jenny said. She didn’t like to eat alone. Then, “Mom, let’s snuggle.” Snuggling meant talking on the sofa while Michele rubbed her young athlete’s legs, back or whatever needed massaging.

Less than an hour later, Jenny changed and called goodbye over her shoulder as she dashed out to her car.

Those are Michele’s final memories of her daughter.

A short time later, Jenny’s heart stopped on a Glenview Park District soccer field and she died of sudden cardiac arrest caused by an undetected congenital heart defect. It’s possible that Jenny’s life could have been saved had the Park District had an automated external defibrillator (AED) on the grounds.

Although Jenny’s heart stopped, Michele’s is going strong: She’s working to protect other children on the North Shore and around the country from Jenny’s fate. She started the Jennifer Lynn Snyder Teen Heart Foundation to raise awareness about sudden cardiac arrest, the importance of regular EKG screenings, publicly maintained AEDs and emergency response training. One of the foundation’s goals is to purchase and donate defibrillators to public entities such as the Glenview Park District.

“The Jennifer Lynn Snyder Teen Heart Foundation is just a microcosm of what is happening all over the country,” Snyder says.

Cities such as Seattle and Portland are beginning to understand the importance of teaching their citizens what do in an emergency, including how to use AEDs and perform CPR. Her goal is that 10 years from now, every school-age child will receive regular EKG screenings.

Michele also keeps Jenny alive by regularly reaching out to Jenny’s friends. This year she had an open house on the day Jenny would have turned 19 and served all of her daughter’s favorite foods: chocolate chip cookie cake, brownies and Jimmy John’s turkey sandwiches. 150 of Jenny’s friends came.

“Jenny died and left me with a cause I could lead. The death of a child is nine parts horrific and one part special gift. The goal is to focus on the special gift—and not forget what Jenny always said, ‘Do what you like. Like what you do.’”

To learn more about sudden cardiac arrest or to get involved with the Jennifer Lynn Snyder Teen Heart Foundation, visit

— Susan B. Noyes

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