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Letter to the Editor: Reality Tour could become your reality
November 20, 2013 10:50 AM

For several months now the Indiana County Reality Tour has been publicized in The Indiana Gazette. I attended this tour several months ago and would like to commend the organization and all who have made this program possible.

This drug prevention program depicts how drugs — especially heroin — affects the lives of the addicted person and the family. It is realistic and an eye-opener for all who attend. It is focused for our children 10 years and older, but it is informative for any age. The attendance, I thought, would be full with a waiting list, but this is not the case: There is room for you and your loved ones.

Many times we are blind to what is happening in our small towns where we live until it affects our lives. If you don’t think drugs are a problem in our schools, towns and families or that they are never going to affect your life, it is happening or it will happen at some time to someone you love.

You need to become aware of what a real problem Indiana County has — read your paper, watch the happenings in our towns. This is why I would recommend everyone attend this program. If you are a parent, take your children, If you are church youth leader or Scout leader, take your youth. Anyone who works with our youth, take them. Take advantage of this opportunity; it could save one of those children’s lives.

We need to be proactive in this war that is growing daily in our small communities and peoples’ lives. Drugs are destroying families daily. I encourage you to take one evening to attend this tour. It could change your life or the life of a loved one. It will make an impact on your life and hopefully the lives of the children who attend.

Thank you, Indiana-Armstrong–Clarion County Drug and Alcohol Commission, for your work on this project, along with District Attorney Pat Dougherty, the county sheriff’s office, county jail and other local officials for making this reality tour possible to our county.

I would also like to commend the DA and other county officials for the drug court program they have developed to help give those with addictions the opportunity to change and turn their lives. Thank you for trying to make an impact and change in lives.

Debbie Friday


Letter: A Reality Tour Down the Road of Bad Decisions

Posted: April 15, 2014 - 6:10pm

Prevention and Recovery Services and Safe Streets recently conducted an event at the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library. Reality Tour 2014 began on March 30 and ended March 31. The event focused on poor decisions concerning alcohol, drugs and tobacco and how they impact a family and community members.

The event brought together law enforcement officials, ambulance service personnel, Stormont-Vail nurses and correction officers from the local detention facility, as well as funeral items from Penwell Gabel. The community was able to come together and show parents and teenagers the severity of their own choices. Individuals on the Reality Tour learned what “just drinking a beer” underage could do to a whole community. The event followed the poor decision of a teenager, from getting checked into jail to being admitted to the emergency room.

Death was the subject of the final scene, where individuals reflected on their own lives while facing their mortality. The event was free for parents and teens who registered to participate. After speaking with parents, I know many of them thought the event was the best way to get through to their high school- and middle school-aged children. It made them understand the magnitude of these important decisions in a child’s life.

Because the TSCPL has so many well-educated professionals, we were able to put on this event without a hitch. We are lucky to have the library, with all its educational activities and a safe place for kids to go after school. Without PARS, Safe Streets, the countless volunteers and the library staff, the event wouldn’t have been such a success.


Safe Streets

LIGHTHOUSE To Present Their Second Reality Tour On Sunday, March 2nd In Atascadero

LIGHTHOUSE will present their second Reality Tour® Sunday, March 2, at 1:00pmand 4:00pm at the Atascadero Colony Park Community Center. The Reality Tour® Drug Prevention program was created by Norma Norris of Butler, PA in 2003, and is now promoted through the nonprofit organization CANDLE, Inc. LIGHTHOUSE has purchased the Reality Tour® Program for use in San Luis Obispo County. The tour is recommended for children age 10 and up when accompanied by a parent. Advance reservation is necessary, as space is limited. Parental consent is also required. Participants will follow the fate of a fictitious teen addicted to drugs. The Tour includes an Arrest and Prison Experience as well as dramatic Emergency Room Overdose Scene and Funeral scene. A narrative by the “addict’ precedes each scene and includes the constant reminder to the audience that, “I’m just like you.” Each attendee will be given a drug abuse profile to adopt during the program, so that participants can become familiar with different addictive drugs as well as gateway drugs. At times attendees share their “story” of addiction in small group settings. Participants will have an opportunity to talk with an addict in recovery at the end of the program. Attendees can commit to a drug-free life by tracing their handprint on the Tour® Banner.

ATASCADERO — Residents who have dedicated their lives to the well being of children are giving them and their families a cold, hard look at the result of drug use March 2.

Local anti-addiction organization, Lighthouse, will host two Reality Tours at the Colony Park Community Center on Sunday, March 2, the first at 1 p.m. and the second at 4 p.m., featuring scenes recreated from the life of an addict.

“They are taken on a tour, literally, through a series of events in the life of an addict that includes an arrest scene, an overdose scene and a funeral scene,” said Lighthouse chairperson Chris Balogh. “The Atascadero Police Department turn it on pretty big with the police cars and ambulances and recreate what this would look like.”

Among other drugs circulating, there has been a rise in the use of heroin — a drug that often kills suddenly and which frequently takes medical treatment to withdraw safely. It’s with that in mind that Atascadero Police Commander Joe Allen is working with Lighthouse — to save young lives. In the Reality Tour, Allen participates in the life scene featuring the arrest of a drug user breaking the law to support his or her habit, a scene he wants to reduce in real life by giving our children a wake-up call.

“Instead of ignoring them, Lighthouse is shining down on these kids, and the great success stories coming out of this are miraculous,” Allen said. “If there is a kid out there in trouble and can be saved, we want to be there — that’s our goal.”

For the complete article see the 02-21-2014 issue.


A moving reality anti-drug program known to bring parents and children to tears may be coming to Luzerne County.

Actors portray scenes in the life of a teen on heroin, including his prison booking, an overdose death scene using real emergency workers, and a funeral with a coffin and sobbing mourners.

Bedford County’s program starts on the street showing the addict breaking into a car and getting caught by actual state police. Armstrong County sets the stage with the addict getting pressured by peers to use drugs.

Luzerne County Commissioner Greg Skrepenak said he will push to bring it here because it’s a dose of reality for children and parents.

“Parents need to wake up to that reality that drugs are all around, and they need to sit down and talk to their kids about it,” he said.

It’s not a pipedream because the program is affordable and requires little ongoing maintenance expense, Skrepenak said. The program relies heavily on volunteer actors and donated props.

Children often tune out literature and lectures, so the idea of bringing lessons to life with live actors caught the attention of Luzerne County Drug and Alcohol Director Mike Donahue, who initially pitched the proposal to Skrepenak.

Skrepenak has set up a visit to Butler County’s program, which is so popular it must be booked months in advance.

The nonprofit CANDLE Inc. designed the program, trademarked as “Reality Tour,” for children ages 10 and older. They must attend with an adult.

The program model costs $2,500 and requires an annual $250 fee.

Most counties set it up in a real prison, though Skrepenak does not know if that will be feasible here because the facility is so overcrowded. He’s confident the county will find space, even if it requires props simulating a prison.

Denise Marano, a prevention specialist who helps oversee Armstrong County’s Reality Tour, said organizers originally planned to schedule tours three or four times a year.

“The response was so overwhelming, we have only been able to take one month off,” Marano said.

The scenes are intentionally dramatic and graphic, she said. Children who think they are invincible and in charge of their own lives get a sense of how addiction can make them lose control and hurt those around them, Marano said.

“We get some pretty cynical kids who come in with a certain attitude and don’t usually leave with same attitude.”

Sheila Bambling, a victims advocate for the Bedford County District Attorney’s Office, said the program there is an “eye-opening experience.”

The funeral scene is set up with a registry, pictures, flowers and a teddy bear. The parents hug youths as they pass through the condolence line, begging them not to make the same mistake.

“When they come into that room, you should see the look on their faces.”

Jennifer Learn-Andes, a Times Leader staff writer, may be reached at 831-7333.