American Heart Association: Westerville officer Chad Campese honored as 'Hero with Heart'

Marla K. Kuhlman
ThisWeek group

Westerville Division of Police and school resource officer Chad Campese is being recognized in June as a Hero with Heart by the American Heart Association.

Krista Barber, AHA communications director, said Heroes with Heart honorees are people who have made an impact on the front line during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic and are passionate and/or engage in healthy lifestyle behaviors.

Chad Campese, a school resource officer with the Westerville Division of Police, has been named June's Hero with Heart by the American Heart Association.

“In addition, these heroes believe in health equity for all and creating a healthier community by moving barriers to health-care access and quality,” she said.

Barber said the Heroes with Heart initiative is the brainchild of AHA board member and event chair Angelo Mazzocco, vice president of advisory services for Avaap.

In the fall of 2020, Mazzocco said, AHA asked if he would be willing to lead for AHA.

"With AHA help, we assembled a committee of volunteer leaders, 12 executives from the central Ohio community," he said. “We met regularly to brainstorm what direction we would take and created the Heroes with Heart concept.”

Mazzocco said they wanted to highlight the AHA research but also the individuals playing a big part in the front line of COVID-19 defense.

He said the committee and others were asked to nominate people in the community who could be highlighted. 

“Chad was one of the first who was nominated,” Mazzocco said.

Barber said Campese, a Heritage Middle School student resource officer, experienced the pandemic in a remarkable way.

“When the pandemic first hit, he went back to being a street officer, and as schools reopened, he resumed his SRO position at Heritage,” she said.

New heartbeat

Campese said something strange and disheartening happens to police officers as they gain years and experience. 

“Most can't avoid it despite their best efforts, training and even a genuine desire to operate in a different manner,” he said. “Emotions shut down, empathy runs out, and the robocop mentality kicks in no matter how hard we try to avoid it. It's the nature of the job.”  

Campese said people never call to report positive interactions o because they feel like saying hello. 

“They call because it's quite possibly the worst day of their lives,” he said. “Truth be told, the Westerville community is very unique in this way, as I've been thanked for my service more times than I can count, and there are always baked goods of some sort in the roll-call room from citizens.” 

Campese said he believes the majority of officers are like him in most jurisdictions, and Westerville, even with the baked goods, wasn't able to stop the transition during his 14 years in the city.   

“The heart gets turned off,” he said. “My heart got turned off. Call after call, constant pain and negativity for eight hours a day, day in and day out, a picture of the worst situations the world has to offer on a constant basis. Not to mention the toll of anything else officers may have going on in our personal lives outside of work.”

Campese said emotions are set aside, and officers just do their jobs. 

“It's unavoidable in most,” he said. “It was unavoidable in me. I then took that emotionless person back home to my family. It caused some issues.”

When he was placed as an SRO at Heritage Middle School a few years ago, something strange occurred, Campese said. 

“Somewhere amongst the yelling and running and craziness of everyday contained within those halls, I was blessed to have my heart turned back on,” he said. “Ninety percent of the school day is a positive environment, and I joke with people that all I do now is give hugs and high fives all day. There are exceptions, of course, but the positive certainly outweighs the negative on a consistent basis.”

As the pandemic shut the schools down and Campese was placed back on the street, he said, he could feel it leaving again.

“Emotions draining, the heart darkening another shade as I was just back to dealing with the negative issues of the community each day,” Campese said. “It's what I signed up for, no doubt, but you don't know what you don't know, and I never realized the toll it takes on the heart until I started to lose a bit of mine, again, and the annoyance and frustration with some of the issues on the street began to come again to the forefront.”

As schools returned to in-person learning, he left the street to return to the hugs, high fives, yelling and running – and the occasional issue. 

“I could feel myself being restored,” Campese said. “I enjoyed going to work again. I wasn't just going through the motions. I was back in a positive environment that allowed me to see the best in people as they taught the kids and cared for the lives of the students. It assured me that there was more to the world than the picture a shift on the street provides to so many officers every day. 

“I was, pardon the pun, I suppose, able to get my heart back. And for that, I am very thankful.”

Honorees

Barber said the Heroes with Heart honorees will be announced monthly, with the first named in May and continuing through April 2022.

She said the May honoree was the cardiovascular intensive-care unit nursing team at the Ohio State Richard M. Ross Heart Hospital/Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

Barber said an executive leadership team from one of the AMA signature events, Heart of Columbus (formerly Heart Ball), nominates and votes on the Heroes with Heart.

They are a group of leaders in the community who were chosen by Mazzocco, who is the chair of Heart of Columbus for 2021-22.

Barber said the special group of Heroes with Heart will be celebrated for the overall impact they have on the AHA’s mission and community at the Heroes with Heart event to be held in spring 2022.

mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekMarla