by RICK KAZMER
A drug prevention program coming to Somerset County will show the step-by-step path of addiction — including the worst possible outcome — with a goal to keep families from realizing the nightmare.
The Reality Tour’s focus is prevention, however, not scare tactics, according to organizers.
“It’s consequence based,” tour co-director Jeff Dombrosky said. He and co-director Kris Kreger decided to help launch the tour locally. The program was developed by Candle Inc., a nonprofit organization that holds similar tours around the country.
It will utilize a team of about 40 volunteers, video and other aids to show participants the path of addiction — from peer pressure situations to the funeral home.
In Somerset, the group plans to hold tours monthly, starting in January.
They credit the Somerset Jaycees with providing the financial backing and support to meet that commitment. The group donated $3,500 to help with the startup and has pledged to pay $500 in yearly administration costs. Several Jaycees are also volunteers for the program.
Jaycees President Josh Broucher said the charitable organization was looking for a worthy cause to help. Former member, Somerset resident Mark Miller, suggested the tour, he said.
“It’s (drug use) bad everywhere,” Broucher said. “You see these little kids, the future of the county and of the state, we made that commitment long term.”
Somerset County Drug and Alcohol Commission Director Erin Howsare said the tour is an example of community members stepping up to the plate to take on a tough issue. The commission is among several other groups supporting the tour.
“Nobody wants to believe that it can happen to their child. This (Reality Tour) shows the devastating consequences,” she said.
The commission works with drug prevention programs around the county. Howsare said heroin has surpassed alcohol as the No. 1 drug of choice for adult addicts that the county has deemed in need of help. Within the last year she said there has been almost 500 clients.
Substance abuse involving alcohol, tobacco and other drugs are down among youth, she said. Marijuana is an area of concern.
Kreger, who has a family member suffering with addiction, liked that parents are required to take the tour with their children.
Dombrosky said he has attended tours in other towns where children appeared to at first have a nonchalant attitude.
“They thought, ‘just another drug program,’” he said. “By the end the parents and children were embracing.”
For more information, to help with or donate to the tour, contact organizers at firstname.lastname@example.org.
BADEN - The evening began with a teenage girl from Beaver inviting friends to a gathering that promised "party favors" for everyone. It ended with a Blackhawk varsity football jacket draped across an open coffin.
"Drugs and alcohol. Don't be stupid."
"People get messed up from that stuff."
"That's movie crap."
"I guess one time couldn't hurt."
A Beaver County deputy escorted a boy from Baden, dressed in an orange jumpsuit, hands cuffed behind his back, and then doctors from Heritage Valley Beaver abandoned resuscitation efforts on a Blackhawk athlete as a young girl companion shrieked in agony.
"I don't feel a pulse," Dr. Uyly Yukio said before pronouncing the time of death at "1900 hours."
One night in Baden.
The "Reality Tour" touched down Monday evening at the former Mt. Gallitzin Academy building and dragged more than 35 people, mostly parents and teenagers, through a 90-minute journey intended to mirror the realities of adolescent drug abuse. The presentation mixed stark video documentary elements with a poignant audio drama and a talk with District Judge Tim Finn.
But the most compelling segments were the vignettes presented by students from the Lincoln Park Performing Arts Charter School and members of the Beaver County community who deal daily with the ramifications of drug and alcohol abuse.
"It's something that hits me in a powerful way because it is happening to kids our age," Samantha Split, a Lincoln Park freshman from Beaver, said after her "party favor" peer pressure performance. "It has a lot of meaning to it."
Split was the aggressor in the opening episode, but says she drew from her experience as the target of other kids promoting drug use.
"I know how it feels," she said.
The presentation was produced by Beaver County Behavioral Health and directed by Kate Lichius. It has been presented twice during the 2010-2011 school year, and will be staged again in May.
"(The Reality Tour) focuses on the consequences of substance abuse," Lichius said.
The Lincoln Park students brought the consequences to life and death.
During the video presentation, Alex Gorski, a sophomore from Baden, was pulled from the group and handcuffed by a county detective. Later, he was led down a hall to cell-like room with other boys - some older, some younger - in orange jumpsuits.
"I hope that never happens to me," Gorski said. "The first time we did it, it was so scary. I would never want to be that person. Don't do drugs. Be smart. It's frightening to think about what could happen."
In another scene, Mersedez Hoover, a freshman from Beaver, stood and watched as the doctors work fervently, but unsuccessfully, to resuscitate her cousin. She then stood next to the coffin and accepted condolences with her cousin's parents.
"Honestly, if anything like that happened to anyone I knew, I would be terrified," she said. "It's scary because it's real."
The funeral home scene led everyone past the casket, past the varsity jacket and baseball glove, to a mirror propped on the pillow. It carried a message, "Don't let this happen to you."
"It has a very powerful message," Split said. "And the scary part is that you know it won't change everybody."
They display their pledge on T-shirts About 250 sixth grade students at Mars Centennial School and 150 sixth grade students at Buffalo and South Buffalo elementary schools made a pledge to be drug-free in a unique manner.
Each of the students was given an “I Promise” T-shirt designed by Community Awareness Network for a Drug-Free Life and Environment, or CANDLE. The shirts have a space for the student’s signature as a wearable sign of their drug- and alcohol-free commitment, according to a news release.
The shirts are available by a grant from the state attorney general office and a private donor.
Norma Norris, director of the CANDLE Reality Tour Drug Prevention Program, reminded students of the importance of keeping their drug- and alcohol-free promise.
Many sixth grade students and their parents have attended the Reality Tour Drug Prevention Program.
In the news release, Centennial Principal Todd Lape said he appreciates the program because “it is rare that a drug and alcohol prevention program is designed to reach parent and child together like the Reality Tour. Reaching parents is critical.”
The school is in the Mars School District.
Freeport School District principals Steve Poleski and Charles Kreinbucher of Buffalo and South Buffalo elementary schools are working on ways to increase student participation in the next school year.
The next Reality Tour programs will be held at 6 p.m. May 13 at the Adams Township Building and May 17 at Slippery Rock University.
The program is for parents with children ages 10 to 18. Register online at www.RealityTour. org. Cost is $5 per person. Preregistration required.
Proceeds benefit CANDLE, a nonprofit organization.
For group reservations, call 724-679-6612
|Hailee Salander, a sixth grade student at South Buffalo Elementary School, signs a T-shirt pledging a drugand alcohol-free life. The Community Awareness Network for a Drug-Free Life and Environment, or CANDLE, provided the shirts to students at Mars Centennial School and Buffalo and South Buffalo elementary schools.|
MILFORD — “You see how people really are and how drugs can really change how a person is,” said Adam Tidridge of the Reality Tour.Fellow high school student, Alexander Trujillo agreed that the feel of actually “being there” in the moment has a greater impact than anything kids might see on television or video. The two were among the Delaware Valley students playing roles during the drug reality play that is the Reality Tour.Jimmy Teehan of the Child Death Review Team and Betty Ann Teehan of Pike County's Child Care Information Services, took the opportunity at Wednesday's commissioners meeting to recognize those involved in their annual Reality Tour presentation.The Teehans also presented department President John Crespo, of the Milford Volunteer Fire Department, with a letter of Appreciation for the department's assistance in producing the Reality Tour.“We can't do the Reality Tour without volunteers,” said Teehan, who also recognized the parents and children who had already gone through the program.“We immerse them in the whole scene,” said Betty Ann. She walked through what happens and the impact it has on those witnessing. “A police comes in and arrests someone that's sitting there. Four or five times it has been my son. And I knew it was coming. And I cried. It is quite realistic.”“It kind of shows them that it does happen ... its the good kids, who just get mixed up. The kids doing drugs accept him... it escalates... you have to start selling it, if you want it.”The tour shows peer pressure, the affects of drugs and alcohol on the kids, the reality of being arrested and overdosing. During the program, there is morphed picture that shows how the physical impact of drugs on those going through it.“There's a lot of poignant moments, a lot of startling moments,” says Betty Ann, obviously passionate about the subject matter. At the end, there is a recovering addict who talks about how they were just like the kids present and how their life was changed, what they did in order to keep being able to do the drugs and how bad things can really be when going through the addiction.May 19 is the final date for this year's Reality Tour. It is a worthwhile and informative program, says Teehan, which helps prevent unnecessary risks due to drug and alcohol use by the youth of Pike County.In other business, the commissioners decided that there is no current need to pass an Act 13 impact fee ordinance. And if a gas well is drilled in the county in the future, then at that time an ordinance must be passed.The next Commissioners meeting will be Wednesday May 16.— Charles Reynolds