Recycled bottle caps will become a lasting tribute to Fox Chapel student
By Paulette Lash Ritchie, Times Correspondent
SPRING HILL — Dylan Arnold was talking on the phone early Dec. 26, 2015, when he went silent.
We woke up to find him passed away,” said his mother, Brooke Arnold. Dylan was 14.
A popular student, Dylan was almost 6 feet tall and a Fox Chapel Middle School eighth-grader.
“My son was a gentle giant,” Arnold said. “He was everybody’s person, very well loved, well liked.”
His parents hadn’t known it at the time, but Dylan was suffering from an often inherited, silent condition called Brugada syndrome. It is “a type of heart arrhythmia that can cause sudden death,” Arnold said.
“It was surprising and shocking,” said school front desk secretary Donna Loughran, and the school has been working on earning a permanent fixture — a bench — to honor Dylan’s memory.
The bench will be placed in the garden where the school held a candlelight vigil for Dylan. It is being paid for with bottle caps, and the school needs a lot of them — 1,225 pounds.
Loughran is the coordinator for the collection, using reCAPture, a plastic caps collection program. She is collecting plastic soda, water and sports drink bottle caps. They will become the bench, ideally a high-back one, which would require 1,345 pounds of caps. But a flat bench, requiring 1,225 pounds, may be more attainable.
There is a big bottle on the public side of the school’s office counter for cap drop-offs. There is also one on the student side of the counter.
“Students are bringing in bags (of caps),” Loughran said, and she is also getting them from other schools and local churches.
Loughran and her husband, Jim Loughran, have been seen picking up caps after soccer games at Anderson Snow Park on Saturdays.
“Even going into the trash,” Donna Loughran said.
Loughran hopes that students learn some lessons from all this, besides the obvious tribute to their beloved classmate.
“Just don’t throw things away,” she said. “Things can be recycled and reused.”
Arnold has been touched by the outpouring of support from Fox Chapel. Besides the vigil, the school framed Dylan’s football jersey and gave it to the family. And she said she loves the idea of the bench.
“It’s amazing. They were trying to keep it a surprise, but I saw it on Facebook,” she said.
It is also important to Arnold that people become aware of Brugada syndrome. It is detectable with an electrocardiogram.
Symptoms can include feeling faint, heart palpitations and a quick heartbeat. If a child (or adult) is diagnosed, the treatment, Arnold said, is an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator to monitor heart rhythm and deliver electrical shocks to control abnormal heartbeats.
Since the condition can be inherited, she and Dylan’s sister, Madison, 11, have been genetically tested. Madison tested negative, but Brooke Arnold was positive.
“It’s actually very rare, but it’s starting to become more and more known,” she said.
Community members who would like to contribute to Dylan’s bench are encouraged bring soda, water bottle and sports drink caps to Fox Chapel Middle School, 9412 Fox Chapel Lane in Spring Hill.
Loughran will welcome and thank the contributors. And Dylan will always be remembered.
Recycled bottle caps will become a lasting tribute to the Fox Chapel student.