UPDATE: Mom raises money to buy defibrillators after son's death

Published: Apr. 29, 2018 at 6:46 PM EDT
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UPDATE 7/19/18 @ 6:30 p.m.

It's been two and a half months since Kristy Ray's world came crashing down when her 8-year-old son Caleb suddenly passed away after soccer practice. It happened after he suffered a cardiac emergency while kicking the ball around with friends.

There was no defibrillator or any other lifesaving device on the field that could have helped Caleb. Kristy is working to change that by raising money to buy defibrillators for sports leagues in Lincoln County.

"We felt compelled in the beginning to do this," Ray said. "I don't know why, but we felt this is what we needed to do. We had a lot of donations coming in; we had a lot of money. It was a thought several of us at the same time thought, this is what we needed to do."

In total, more than $20,000 in donations from across the country, and even Germany, have poured in to the Live Like Caleb Foundation.

"We thought maybe we could procure a couple of them at least for our sports leagues. Then when it blew up the way it did, we were shocked, and it keeps going and it keeps going," Ray said.

Thursday, Kristy met with the American Red Cross and AED manufacturer, Zoll to order 12 defibrillators to give out to leagues. Ray says the additional money that comes in will help with maintenance for the devices, and buy more.

"A child like him, something good had to come from it," she said. "There's no way he could have died in vain."

In our region, Kentucky is the only state that has a law requiring AEDs at every sport practice and game. The law passed in 2009. Kristy would like to see a similar law pass in West Virginia. She says once she gets the first round of defibrillators distributed, she'd like to think about lobbying for a statewide law.

To donate to the Live Like Caleb Foundation,


A family is mourning an unimaginable loss after their 8-year-old son suddenly passed away while playing soccer with his friends.

It happened Thursday in the Ranger area of Lincoln County.

“It was just a normal day,” said Kristy Ray. “I have video of him practicing as goalie probably 10 minutes before his heart stopped and he's jumping up and down.”

Caleb Ray had just finished his first practice of the season and was playing around with friends when his dad says he complained of not feeling right.

“He told me, ‘Daddy I can't see,’” said Caleb’s dad, Ryan. “He fell and started convulsing a little bit. I yelled over there to call an ambulance and everybody came running over and Kristy and I performed CPR on him until the ambulance arrived.”

Despite the efforts of both his parents and paramedics, Caleb was not revived.

“You don't think it's going to happen to you,” said Kristy. “You hear about it happening a million miles away to somebody else. in another state, you don't know the situation. You never think it's going to happen to your kids or even anyone you know.”

Kristy says her son never showed any signs of a medical issue before. He had a heart murmur as an infant and a small case of asthma, but nothing that would lead to a sudden death.

Now in their time of the utmost grief, the Rays are making it their mission to save other lives and raise awareness to not just having children thoroughly checked out by their doctor, but also make sure that defibrillators are readily available. There wasn’t one around on Thursday.

“We think about their safety in every other aspect,” said Kristy. “We don't want them playing if its too slick, if there's lightening, if it's too hot.”

The Rays say their younger daughter also plays soccer, but they won’t be letting her hit the field again until she sees a doctor.

“We don't want her to do anything strenuous until we get a cardiac work up on her. We're scared. We're scared it's going to happen again. The chances are probably slim, but if it's any chance we don't want to take it.”

The Rays say donations have been pouring in in the days after Caleb’s death. They say they plan on using that money to buy defibrillators for their area teams and work with local lawmakers to make sure the life saving device is always on standby at all games and practices.

“The fact that he was taken from us so soon it cannot be for nothing,” said Kristy. “Something good has to come from this, and the type of child he was, he would want us to do this.”

Now as they prepare to say goodbye to their young son, the Rays want other parents to understand how precious life is, and to enjoy every moment with their families.

“You feel a lot of guilt for everything you didn't do and everything you didn't say,” said Kristy. “I don't know what my last words were to him. I think I hollered ‘Great job Caleb!’ because he blocked a ball. You just wish you could have said, ‘I love you I love you, I love you.’”

Services are set for Monday at McGhee Handley Funeral Home in West Hamlin. A visitation will begin at 2 p.m. and the funeral will start at 4 p.m.

Donations can be mailed to PO Box 292 Ranger, WV 25557.