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Ordinance to place water cooling vessels at South Fulton parks named in honor of 12-year-old who died

The ordinance passed by the City of South Fulton Council also requires training for coaches to respond to heat-related emergencies.

SOUTH FULTON, Ga. — Water vessels will be placed at 10 City of South Fulton parks to keep kids cool when they're practicing sports.

This comes after a boy lost his life in a South Fulton park during football practice in 2016. Johnny Tolbert,12, passed out from a heat stroke during conditioning drills at Welcome All Park. 

The temperature outdoors was 90 degrees, but South Fulton Councilwoman Helen Z. Willis, who sponsored the ordinance, said it felt like 114 degrees with the heat index.

Johnny was Michelle Wright's only child and would have been 18 years old today, April 27.

“My baby was everything. He was my world. He was my best friend. I could not have asked for a better child than him," she said.

Wright said it took 20 minutes for an ambulance to arrive after her son collapsed at the 2016 practice, and his temperature was 107 degrees when he got to the hospital. 

“He would want to support other kids and want to help other kids to make sure they're safe. He was a very good kid. He was a very wonderful child," said Felicia McClure, a family friend. 

Johnny is helping keep other kids safe with an ordinance passed in city council this week in his name. It requires water vessels, which look like oversized water coolers, holding at least 150 gallons of water and ice to be present at city parks where kids under 18 years old practice sports.

Credit: Courtesy of family
Johnny Tolbert III

Former Atlanta Braces center fielder Marquis Grissom's foundation and Georgia Power are paying the $200 cost for each of them.

“We have to number one, put safety first," Grissom said. "That is key for us and the responsibility of the coaching staff having to get educated on protecting our kids.”

Johnny’s family and local leaders said they tried multiple times to get a similar measure passed on the state level but couldn’t get enough support.

“To save a life for $200, I don’t understand why not. This was a no-brainer, and the state legislators got this wrong," Willis said. 

Part of South Fulton's ordinance also requires coaches to be trained on how to respond to heat-related emergencies. 

“With the fire department, we'll be working together to get that plan of implementation in place to make sure that the coaches can have it available if in the event of an emergency takes place." said Travis Landrum, director of South Fulton's Parks and Recreation Department. 

The water vessels should be in place within the next few weeks. 

Willis hopes this is a step in the right direction for a statewide bill in Johnny's name. She also plans to reach out to other municipalities in Fulton County to see if a similar ordinance can be passed there.

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