The Tribune Review – July 3, 2012
By Brad Pedersen
The Norwin Lions Club has helped a national anti-drug program find a home in the Norwin region.
The club plans to work with Candle, Inc., a Butler-based non-profit agency, to offer the Reality Tour in September at JB’s Bright Beginnings on Brush Hill Road in Irwin.
“The Reality Tour is a good, preventative program, targeting children and their parents to teach them about the process of addition,” said Gina Davis, the director of the Norwin Reality Tour.
The tour first came to Westmoreland County in 2007, and had about 300 people attend eight sessions held in the Westmoreland County Courthouse. Since coming to the county, its popularity grew, forcing organizers to put participants on waiting lists, according to Norma Norris, Reality Tour director.
The Reality Tour is an anti-drug and anti-alcohol program, that features real stories and scenarios from people affected by drugs and alcohol.
The tour began in 2003 and it has locations in 10 states – including Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio – offer Reality Tour presentations, which are run by law-enforcement officers, health care officials and volunteers.
The audience is mostly sixth-graders who attend the three-hour program with their families, Norris said, although the program is appropriate for 10- to 17-year-olds. It features presentations by recovering addicts, parents who have lost a child to drug overdoses and law enforcement.
The program, which requires parents to attend with their children, helps open better lines of communications to discuss drugs, alcohol and addition, Norris said. It also aims to give parents a better understanding of what their children might encounter on a daily basis.
Norris said volunteers from the Norwin Lions Club, cooperation from the Irwin and North Huntingdon police departments and a $6,000 grant from the Community Foundation of Westmoreland County made the Norwin tour become a reality.
Norris expects the Norwin Reality Tour to become a long-lasting and successful program.
“The Reality Tour is based on demand, and the demand was so strong in Greensburg that, even after taking in two groups of 100 each month, we had to start a three-month waiting list,” Norris said.
“With the volunteers, Norwin has all the ingredients to make its program as successful as what is offered at the courthouse.”
The Norwin Reality Tour could accommodate between 30 and 100 participants, and organizers plan to offer one tour on the second Tuesday of each month. Each tour lasts three hours, Davis said.
The Norwin Lions Club plans to make the tour available to students in the Norwin and Penn-Trafford school districts, Davis said.
“We’re targeting the fifth- and sixth-grade levels in those school districts, and eventually, we might be able to offer the tour to others in the area,” Davis said. “We want to reach as many fifth- and sixth- graders as we can during our first year.”
The Norwin Reality Tour is Candle’s first expansion in Westmoreland County. Eventually, Norris said, she hopes the organization can offer the Reality Tour in two to four other areas throughout the county, including Mt. Pleasant and Kiski.
“The program is community-driven, and we hope to make it as personable as possible,” Norris said. “When a Reality Tour is run by community volunteers, it really gives them the sense that they’re taking care of their own, which is one of our goals.”
For more information on the Reality Tour, visit www.realitytour.org, or contact Norma Norris at 724-679-1788.