CLEVELAND (WJW) – Damar Hamlin’s life-threatening heart injury hits close to home in Northeast Ohio and to the family of Cleveland Browns star Denzel Ward.

In his years since being drafted by the Browns, his impact has been felt on and off the field throughout communities in Northeast Ohio with his “Make Them Know Your Name” Foundation.

“That’s a foundation my family and I created because my father passed away suddenly from heart failure,” Denzel said.

Denzel’s father, 46-year-old Paul Ward Jr., collapsed and died from sudden cardiac arrest during a spin class.

“When he collapsed, to our understanding, CPR or an AED was not used until EMS arrived,” said Nicole Ward, Denzel’s mother. “We did learn the AED was steps away and no one took the intuitive to use it.”

An AED, or automated external defibrillator, may have saved Nicole’s husband’s life. An AED was crucial Monday night in treating Hamlin.

Watching that scene in Cincinnati unfold brought back memories of Nicole’s husband.

“I was encouraged to hear and read right away. They were able to perform CPR and activate and AED because I know that time is of the essence. If he was going to have a chance to pull through this, it was because someone acted immediately,” Nicole said.

Now, Denzel and his mom are focused on educating people on CPR, distributing AEDs to schools, churches and other business to prevent any future deaths.

“This year, we’ve given away approximately 10 AEDs,” Nicole said. “For every win the Browns had, we gave an AED to an organization.”

So far, in the more than three years of Ward’s “Make Them Know Your Name” Foundation, they’ve been able to distribute more than 20.

“It’s a simple process, but the result of it is tremendous because it can save a life,” Nicole said.

Learn more about the foundation here.