VAN WERT — The area continues to see young people affected by drug overdoses.
The Lima Police Department recently put out a warning bulletin that they had four overdoses in six days with marijuana-only smokers.
“The drug dealers are starting to lace the marijuana with Fentanyl, which is a whole new game. We got a whole new group of people who are going to be kids with either addiction or death. So for some of our youth, the first time they’ve smoked pot may be the last time,” said Rev. Paul Hamrick, President of the Van Wert County Ministerial Association.
The Ministerial Association decided to do something about it, hosting the Epidemic of Hope Weekend in Van Wert, Mercer, and Paulding Counties to warn teenagers about the dangers of drugs.
“We realized for a long time the church has not been at the table or been involved in what’s probably the most devastating situation, economically, socially and spiritually destroying our area. So, by a miracle, we were able to get Darryl Strawberry,” said Hamrick. Two events were held Sunday at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center in Van Wert.
On Sunday afternoon, Strawberry spoke with teen athletes in Van Wert about his well-known struggle with addiction.
The former Major League Baseball player had been suspended from baseball three times for substance abuse. Now 56, Strawberry is an ordained minister. He’s also written a book called “Don’t Give Up on Me,”which recounts his struggles with addiction.
“The message [today] is your life matters. Make the right choices. I tell the kids all the time you can pick your sins but you can’t pick your consequences. Consequences are real and we need to start educating our kids about that. The reality is we’re living in a deadly time, and that’s why we’re in the [drug] epidemic today with young people because no one is going back and caring for them and hearing them. Most of them are consuming themselves with drugs to take away their pain,” Strawberry said.
“Drugs are a part of drinking and drugs are a part of trying to escape from your pain. If we never deal with that, we’re going to always continue to use. For me, it doesn’t matter if you’re a celebrity. It doesn’t matter if you’re a kid — 19, 15 years old. If I don’t ever get to the root of it and never deal with it, I can never get well,” he said.
Strawberry needs the kids to know that celebrities and pro athletes like himself may have had an upbringing that wasn’t all that positive.
“We come from broken places. We pretend like our homes are all great and there were never any problems and we lie to [ourselves], and we shouldn’t lie to these kids and tell them we never had problems. We need to tell them we had problems and issues in our homes so they can relate to it, because everyone goes through that struggle. When they do find themselves, not accepted and rejected — some type of trauma, some type of abuse has happened to them — they run to a different place to find something different to make them feel better,” he added.
Reach Sam Shriver at 567-242-0409.