Reality Tour ® FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 8/13/14 Karns City School District 724-756-2030
100 Brugh Ave. Butler, PA 16001
Deaths of six KC former players, in the years after graduation, inspires coach to take action.
Butler / Karns City, PA: The Karns City football team is moving up in the state and national rankings and they are now first in the local ranking for county teams to attend the Reality Tour Drug Prevention Program. This year Coach Ed Conto’s preparation for the Gremlin’s 2014 season is about more than push- ups and playbooks, “Year after year, former players are losing their lives to drugs and alcohol after graduation. Six former players have died as the result of drugs or alcohol. ”
That is why, after practice on Monday thirty players boarded a bus, courtesy of local carrier Shriver Bus Company, to meet up with their parents at the Reality Tour Drug Prevention Program held at the YWCA in Butler. Next Monday another 30 players and parents will make the same trip. Karns City football team will then have full bragging rights for 100% team attendance.
Preparations for this experience began last summer when the Butler nonprofit CANDLE, Inc. proposed to Superintendent Dr. Eric Ritzert and Coach Conto to ‘lend a hand’ to help provide a powerful drug prevention experience for players and their parents. Tara Maziarz, Public Relations Director for CANDLE, Inc., helped design the agency’s new ‘Lend A Hand’ approach because, “Coaches have influence over their players and can lend a hand to help deliver that target audience. We also realize that football players influence other students. Our agency wanted to tap into both dynamics to raise drug awareness.”
In developing the Lend A Hand approach, open to any team, club etc., CANDLE was keying off the success of Grove City Rotary’s Reality Tour experience. Grove City football coach Jeff Bell asked Rotary to schedule a private presentation for his team during the 2013 football season. In the middle of the season, when the team was vying for playoff positon, Coach Bell substituted Reality Tour for a team practice. Club President Darla Motta recalls the event, “It was an emotional evening with Coach Bell wrapping up the program with a heartfelt plea to his players to stay safe, stay drug/alcohol-free. You could see his genuine concern for these young lives.”
At Monday’s Reality Tour, Karns City players had the opportunity to commit to staying drug-free by tracing their handprint on a banner in front of their coach and parents as part of the evening’s activities. Reality Tour took participants for a ‘walk in the life and death of a teen on drugs’ to show via dramatic scenes - Arrest, ER and Funeral - that the consequences of drug abuse are real. All the while, the narrative of the addict during the scenes issued the refrain, “Once I was just like you.” This resonated with at least one teen who commented on his survey, “The consequences can happen to anyone. This program taught me to treasure my life.”
The prevention journey moved on to the dangers of designer drugs like ‘Molly’ and ‘Ecstasy’. The prior weekend’s news meshed with the message that popular music glorifies drugs and Molly in particular. (Molly is methylenedioxymethamphetamine, more commonly referred to as MDMA — the active ingredient in the party drug Ecstasy.) Two young people died from overdose last weekend at a Maryland concert and 20 more were treated for overdose. Tragedies like this are occurring at concerts across the US with increasing frequency.
Before wrapping up, ways to manage daily life were explored in a coping skills segment. Reality Tour Developer and Director, Norma Norris reminded parents that, “Spaghetti and meatballs equals drug prevention.” This related to her encouragement for families to connect by having five sit down meals each week.” Life skills for youth were given in a checklist of healthy behaviors like volunteering. Players made notes on skills to improve upon in the months and years ahead. The exercise led one teen to write, “It is important to surround myself with friends that don’t use drugs and alcohol.” In the final segment, law enforcement and two youth in recovery from participated in a Q & A session. As players left they were given their photograph that had been morphed in appearance to remind them that drugs can change you on the inside and the outside. The photograph was imprinted on a form that listed area resources that offer help for substance abuse.
Reflecting on the Karns City Football Team attendance success, Norris states that, “When school officials and staff have the courage to admit there is a need for prevention, they open up the opportunity to change lives and save lives. Every school, every community is affected by substance abuse. Prevention can only begin when dialogue begins.”
Parents had the last word Monday night when they filled out their surveys with positive comments like, “Thank you. You are changing lives.” and “Keep up the good work this was priceless.”
CANDLE, Inc.’s Reality Tour is an evidence-based program that started in Butler, PA at the grassroots level in 2003. It was researched by the University of Pittsburgh and is now listed on the federal government’s National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices. The program, presented by volunteers, has reached over 9,000 Butler County residents in monthly presentations at the YWCA in Butler and Adams Township Municipal Building in Mars.
Replications of Reality Tour in other states and communities has reached over 30,000 families. The Alcoa Foundation awarded a 2-year grant to CANDLE, Inc. in 2013 to establish four more Reality Tour sites through service clubs. The four new sites are ready to open in the fall of 2014 with the aid of Westmoreland County’s Latrobe and Belle Vernon Rotary Clubs, the Kaiman Club in Jefferson County and the Jaycees in Somerset County.
Registration forms are online at www.RealityTour.org There is online registration for CANDLE’s Family Health Policy home-drug testing program as well. The next Butler County Reality Tour at the YWCA will be Monday September 8th and in Mars the date is Thursday, September 25th. To inquire about a private Reality Tour for a team or club, or to consider starting a Reality Tour email NormaNorris@candleinc.org or phone 724-679-1788.
Note to media:
Space is limited at the Monday, August 18th private Karns City Football Team Reality Tour held at
the Butler YWCA, 120 W. Cunningham Street, Butler, PA 16001, beginning at 6pm and ending at 9pm
We are at capacity and will need notice to accommodate news media.
No filming or photography is allowed during the Recovery Spokesperson segment that begins at 8:30pm
No filming is allowed in holding cell scene. Filming of ER and Funeral must allow best view to participants.
Please phone Norma Norris 724-679-1788 PRIOR to 4pm day of event. Email: NormaNorris@candleinc.org