CICERO, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — Back in October 2022, Cicero-North Syracuse High School teacher, Joanne Thornton, found herself to be in the right place at the right time.

While she was making a stop at a local Byrne Dairy gas station, she came across Don Landers who had collapsed and suffered cardiac arrest. Without hesitation, Thornton sprung into action and performed CPR on the man until first responders arrived.

“I am so grateful that I knew what to do in that situation so that I could help him. I think the universe, God, and everybody just put us in that situation at that time, both of us, for the purpose of me being able to help him because it wasn’t his time.”


As a health educator at C-NS high school, Thornton already teaches her students CPR, but her personal experience only stresses the importance to learn this life saving skill.

“That’s why we learn this because you never ever know when you’re going to need this to save somebody’s life,” Thornton said during a CPR lesson.

Her students not only learn through lecture, but by getting hands-on practice on CPR manikins. One of her students grateful to learn the skill is Julian White.

“I think it’s nice that I’m able to come in and learn things that are very helpful that I can use down the road in life like this. It’s cool. I think it’s very helpful for my education and the education of all of the other students in the school.”


During a December North Syracuse Central School District Board of Education meeting, Thornton was recognized with a Certificate of Appreciation for her actions. Don Landers, the man whose life she saved, surprised her.

As a Bills Mafia fan, another inspiration for Thornton to teach CPR to her students is when Buffalo Bills Safety Damar Hamlin suffered cardiac arrest on January 2, during a Monday night football game against the Cincinnati Bengals.

She’s challenging everyone to take part in Damar Hamlin’s #3ForHeart CPR Challenge through the American Heart Association.

The three steps of the challenge:

  1. Learn CPR
  2. Donate to the American Heart Association
  3. Share your support by posting a picture with your heart hands up and tag three friends with #3forHeart

Click here to take part in the #3ForHeart Challenge.