By BENJAMIN BROJAKOWSKI
For The Pocono Record
November 14, 2011
The Child Death Review Team presented The Reality Tour at the First Presbyterian Church in Milford on Saturday.
The Child Death Review Team is a group of community-based organizations that review all deaths in Pike County of residents between birth and age 21. They then determine ways to prevent future deaths.
In 2008, the Death Review Team began the Reality Tour. The Reality Tour is a drug prevention program aimed at helping Pike County youth and parents learn about the dangers of various drugs. It has the support of Pike county commissioners, district attorneys and the coroner’s office. Milford Fire and Ambulance, numerous non-profit organizations and local businesses also support the Reality Tour.
The tour began with a six-scene dramatic presentation performed by a group of child and adult volunteers. The play followed the life of a fictitious teen and his downward spiral into a world of drug usage.
“In the past, the focus of the play was on heroin,” said Jill Gamboni, director of the Reality Tour and member of the Death Review Team. “Going forward we will adjust the program to put an emphasis on prescription drugs.”
The play began with a peer pressure scene followed by an arrest scene inside the church’s social hall. The audience then followed the play from room to room, going outside for one scene and to Milford Fire & Ambulance for another. Other scenes included depictions of jail, overdose, the emergency room and a funeral.
The theme throughout the play was “I’m Just Like You.” The theme was used to show that addiction can happen to anyone and the thought that “It won’t happen to me” can be inaccurate. “I’m just like you” was reinforced by a CD that played the teen’s internal dialogue at many of the scenes.
After the play, children, parents and volunteers were brought back to the social hall for presentations from law enforcement, the county coroner’s office and recovering drug addict Matt Walsh.
A law enforcement officer discussed penalties for being caught with or using drugs while Walsh told his own story about how drugs affected his life.
Walsh spoke candidly about his early life, his use of gateway drugs and becoming a drug dealer. He explained how peer pressure led him to use marijuana and alcohol, his family history with addiction and the way it affected his education and family life.
“I had enough of the life I had been living,” he said. “It had become completely unmanageable.”
This was Walsh’s second speaking appearance at the Reality Tour and he explained why it was so important for him to tell his story.
“The example of the tour and seeing the hope in these kids is worth it,” he stated. “It also helps me because I know I won’t leave here and go to a dealer.”
He was modest about the length of his sobriety and chose only to say, “Every day I’m sober is a gift from God.”
Each speaker answered audience questions and make the presentation interactive, so parents and children could take full advantage of the open forum.
The Reality Tour is an honest look into what a life of drug and alcohol addiction can lead to. It will return next year, and the Death Team members said they hope to make the tour a requirement for anyone in the county on youth probation.