NOPE Taskforce hosts first high-impact assembly at Diamond View
During the hard-hitting presentation, Sgt. J. Wilber, of the Palm Beach Police Department, said to the students in attendance, “NOPE’s goal is save you one by one.”
NOPE’s mission is to save lives by delivering personal, graphic, emotional presentations with help from law enforcement officials, recovering addicts and from parents who have suffered the loss of a child to a drug-related overdose.
Wilber said the program is hard-hitting because flowery, good-feeling programs aren’t working.
“This is a reality check. Scared straight. This is what happens to you, this is how you die — and that’s what we wanted and that’s what we push for. And that’s why we came in hard hitting in your face. This is what you look like when you’re dead, overdosing from drugs,” Wilber said. “And we’re going to keep it hard-hitting it’s not ever going to get flowery.”
As students entered the assembly, they saw enlarged photos of people, ranging from ages 15 to 26, who died from drug overdoses. Below two of the photos of smiling people, was a picture of the person lying in his or her casket.
Two enlarged photos of a dead 19-year old boy were passed around the assembly, an actual call a mother made to 911 about her son’s overdose was played and Wilber shared a story about how one mother was constantly plagued at night by the sound of her son’s body being zipped up in a body bag.
A casket was placed on one side of the gymnasium and Wilber showed an urn holding the ashes of a drug overdose victim.
Students cried as they heard mothers tearfully share the pain they suffered when they lost a child due to alcohol or drugs and when Kimberly Perry, sister of a victim in Florida, sang Eric Clapton’s song, “Tears in Heaven.”
Presentations are given in schools throughout Florida and according to Wilber, the students’ response was average.
Karen Perry, co-founder of NOPE, shared how she lost her son to drugs and local mothers Ramona Schlauch and Brenda Hoffman shared about their sons who died in the fall.
Schlauch described her son, Robbie, as wonderful, compassionate, spiritual, someone who loved spending time with his family and friends, a person who was active in sports and had big dreams for the future.
Schlauch said it is her job to share Robbie’s story with other kids and parents.
“I would like to help somebody from making the same mistakes,” she said.
She said Robbie began to make some bad choices and somewhere along the drugs took over Robbie’s dreams and his life.
Robbie died in October and Schlauch said he died alone in his Chico apartment because he would not admit that he had a problem, despite his family’s attempt to help him.
Schlauch said Robbie lost control of his life and the ability to get the things he wanted.
“He gambled with his life and lost,” she said.
Hoffman described her son as being a happy baby; a person who loved the camera and the camera loved him.
He liked to snowboard, wakeboard and skateboard. Alan loved to smile and was a compassionate person, she said.
Alan died two weeks before his 16th birthday and Hoffman shared the night he died they briefly discussed his birthday party and how the family wanted it be a special event.
After turning 16, Hoffman told students that Alan would’ve gotten his license, his dad found a car he might like and Alan had a brand new snowboard and was just waiting for it to snow.
“Life was good,” Hoffman said.
She then described her last conversation with Alan and the nightmare they experienced when they found that both Alan and Stephen Draxler had died.
“Then and until this day we feel pain that goes to the depth of our souls. A loss that cannot or will not ever be place. There’s not a day that goes by that we don’t think about Alan or miss him,” Hoffman said.
“We went from planning a birthday party to planning a funeral,” she said. “Instead of a car, we bought a casket, instead of inviting his friends to his party we invited them to his funeral.”
His brother and five of his friends carried his casket to where he lays now.
“We spent Alan’s 16th birthday at his gravesite,” Hoffman said.
Janice Tassi shared about her daughter, Kelly Dawn, who was killed by a drunk driver when she and her husband of four months were out for a walk.
Tassi said the couple had been discussing when to start a family and showed the students how she wears her daughter’s wedding ring.
However, Tassi said she doesn’t wear the ring she carries it for her daughter and all the dreams that went with it.
“No mother should get their daughter’s wedding ring,” she said and described how the asphalt had to be dug out of the ring first.
After the mothers shared their stories they encouraged the students to stay away from drugs and alcohol or to get help if they were involved in such activities in order to prevent more tragedies.
“You have too much to live for,” Schlauch said. “There are people in this room who care for you and want to help you, please let someone help you. There might be people in this room who need your help, please help them.”
Hoffman said, “If you’re doing drugs get help. If you’re friends are doing drugs find new friends. I do not want to see you’re picture up here and I don’t want your parents joining us because you died.”
Tassi said, “Please know that we aren’t enjoying this, this isn’t fun. You’re parents don’t just love you. We all love you. This has been going on for too long and it has to end. Just let it end with you. Let it end now.”
Members of the Lassen County Narcotics Taskforce and Lassen County Alcohol and Drug Director Lyle Dornon also spoke to the students.
Taskforce member and California Highway Patrol Officer Jeff Schwargel told students about some of the other consequences about drugs.
“Some of the sentencing for furnishing drugs, possession of drugs, sale of drugs can go anywhere from two years up to say 16 years in state prison,” Schwargel said.
Dave Martin, who is the supervisor for the taskforce and a sergeant with the Lassen County Sheriff’s Office said, “Every day of my career I go to people’s homes and see how drugs tear homes apart,” he said.
Some things are certain in life and one of those certainties is death, he said.
But if people use drugs they cut their life very short.
Knocking on the wood of the casket, Martin said, “This is the reality of death.”
He described how death notices are given using names the students are familiar with and said, “You do not want your family to go through the nightmare that all these families had to go through,” he said.
“As a parent my biggest fear is burying my children,” Martin said. “Their job is to bury me,” Martin said.
Dornon gave information about the power of addiction and what people do to obtain drugs.
After the assembly counselors and school psychologists were on hand and Diamond View Principal Patty Gunderson said about 20 students utilized the services.
In addition, pamphlets and a survey were handed out for the students to fill out.
If anyone knows of someone who is doing drugs they may make an anonymous phone call to the narcotics taskforce at 257-7126.
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