SETH - Ray of Hope and The Lighthouse recovery groups in conjunction with Sherman High School hosted a drug awareness summit in the Tide gymnasium on Feb. 6.

Guest speakers addressed students from both Sherman and Van high schools and included: Boone Circuit Judge Will Thompson, Boone County Sheriff's Office Chief Deputy Chad Barker, recovery coach Joey Ferguson, DEA Special Agent in Charge Justin Schumann and Bobby and CeCe Brown with Ryan's Hope, among others.

Barker spoke about the importance of reaching students early.

"I think this is a great idea and it is a great way to reach students early on," he said. "It doesn't matter if it is high school, middle school or grade school, someone has to reach them and educate them about what is going on. For many years, people were afraid to talk about it, but we are at a point where we have to be up-front with the kids. Ray of Hope and groups like it are putting their best foot forward and doing good work. I'm honored to be a part of it."

Sherman High School principal Todd Burdette said he was excited that his school played host to the event.

"A few months back we were invited to the Mark Wahlberg Foundation event in Charleston that had schools from all around the state and it brought together recovery groups, families, recovering addicts and spoke about how they have all been affected by addiction and I was only able to take our ninth-grade class. Our problem in our community needs to be heard by more than our ninth-grade class. Later on, some local groups reached out to me about hosting something similar here at the school. There was no way I could say no to that if you really have a heart for this community and really want to reach and impact people's lives."

Lighthouse Recovery Group Director and Sherman High graduate Joseph Wells addressed the students.

"I just want to bring awareness to you guys and let you know that there is hope," he said. "It (addiction) affected me for 15 years. It affected my family and every relationship that I tried to build."

DEA Agent Schumann spoke about what he'd seen in his years of service and how addiction can change the trajectory of a life in an instant.

Mary Chandler, a 2007 graduate of Sherman, spoke about her addiction and how events from her youth contributed to her feeling alone and isolated, which contributed to her addiction. Today, she serves as a recovery coach.

"There wasn't one drug of choice, but I was addicted for 17 years," she said. "I played basketball at Sherman but I quit because I felt it was my responsibility to keep my mom alive. It wasn't, but I felt like I had to do that. I covered up my pain with every drug I could get hold of."

CeCe Brown shared memories of her son Ryan and how his life changed when he left home for college and then lost his life to addiction.

"He was alone when he overdosed and we lost him," she said. "This is why we're here today. Not to tell you a sad story and get sympathy, we don't need that. We want to share what happened to Ryan and you can learn from that. People in recovery always say that they had no idea that they'd be homeless. They had no idea they'd be living in a tent on the river. They had no idea that they would lose their family and lose their job, but it happened."

The event also featured organizations like Thomas Memorial Hospital, who had booths set up offering information to attendees.

Reporter Phil Perry can be reached at pperry@hdmediallc.com or follow him on Twitter @philipdperry.

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