Kids urged to remain drug free, parents encouraged to speak out at West Rocks event
By ROBIN KAMINSKI
Tuesday, March 19, 2013
Marc Abubo from Brookside Elementary School shows off his anti-drug art which is among many on display by local
students Tuesday at the 9th annual Courage To Speak Empowing Youth to be Drug Free Night at West Rocks School.
Hour photo/Matthew Vinci
NORWALK -- For the past 16 years, Ginger Katz has countlessly relived the painful story of her son Ian's drug overdose in an attempt to dissuade children from going down the same path.
On Tuesday, Katz once again reached out to children and parents to talk about the dangers of drugs at the ninth annual Courage to Speak Empowering Youth to be Drug-Free Family Night at West Rocks Middle School.
"My son Ian was a bright and very sensitive child," Katz said. "He won the hearts of so many and it was very evident at his funeral. Drugs are the demon that destroyed him."
Katz's emotional message was delivered before a packed audience, where students and adults alike intently listened to Ian's story and the heartbreak his overdose at the age of 20 caused his family and friends.
"Each and every one of our children are innocent," Katz said. "Parents, it's so important for you to role play and talk to your children. Ian started smoking cigarettes in the eighth grade and would have a little sip of beer and a little weed. So that is why I am here today -- cigarettes, a sip of beer and weed. Those drugs opened up the floodgates for Ian."
Shortly after Ian's death in 1996, Katz created the Courage to Speak Foundation, which includes a drug prevention education curriculum evaluated by the Yale School of Medicine.
Since then, teachers across the country have worked to implement the message in elementary, middle and high schools as well as a multi-session program for parents called Courage to Speak -- Courageous Parenting 101, which gives parents the tools they need to keep their children safe.
"Drugs cross all ages and economic backgrounds," Katz said. "I will not stop speaking until I see changes in this world."
Emcee of the event, Sen. Bob Duff, said the key to prevention is having parents openly discuss the issue with their children.
"I remember the first time that I spoke with my children about drugs, it was when they were in kindergarten or even a little before," Duff said. "My son said, daddy, what are drugs? I knew that I had to talk about it. This event is a reminder to have conversations early and often with your children to make sure peer pressure or bullying doesn't happen."
Students from local schools expressed their appreciation for the program and read letters to Katz saying they will remain drug free.
"Students tell us after each program that I'll never do drugs and I didn't really know how bad they could be," Katz said. "We're here to help you make sure your children get this message in their heart as soon as possible. And before it's too late."
Community Recognition Awards were handed out to media sponsors, including The Hour.
Ginger Katz, center, CEO and founder of the Courage to Speak Foundation, talks with two moms who also lost their sons
to drug addiction. At left is Linda Stubbs, who lost her son, Javon Brown, at age 24, and at right, Loraine Watcke, who
lost her son, Brian, at age 19. The annual Drug-Free Family night was held at West Rocks School Tuesday night.
-Hour photos / Matthew Vinci
For more information visit www.couragetospeak.org