Deb Abraham Spalding
Locally, we’re at war. We’re not in an obvious battle, it’s a hushed one. Our casualties are many. Our enemy is addiction. Through the efforts of the Thurmont Addiction Commission (TAC), and several other groups and individuals, we’re starting to fight back in the Catoctin area.
Chris Schildt of Thurmont wasn’t our area’s first casualty of addiction, but his death was one that inspired collective action to do something to help and prevent addiction. In his case, a street drug addiction began after using prescribed drugs for a sports injury. Chris had a bright future ahead of him. He was an athlete, a 2009 graduate of Catoctin High School, a 2015 graduate of Shepherd University, he had a job, he coached youth sports, and he had recently become a father, when he died in June 2016 from an overdose, or bad batch, of heroin.
Chris didn’t want to die, but addiction has no geographic, demographic, moral, financial, age, or racial boundaries. We honor him, all who have passed, and all who battle addiction, by seeking solutions and resources in the Catoctin Community. It’s time that we all become proactive in attack to defeat this enemy from which no one is safe, because even if we don’t have an addiction ourselves, we may have a family member, friend, or neighbor who does.
Addiction is a disease that is believed to be caused by a genetic predisposition that can react to stimulants and immediately cause addiction. The reference to addiction in this article is not only on drugs since addiction comes in many forms, with drugs, smoking, drinking, and eating being the most obvious, and sex, tanning, pulling out your hair, and social media being examples of the less obvious.
Chris’ death was the spark of intention for his father and mother, Ed and Karen Schildt of Thurmont, who joined in the efforts of others who had already started fighting, healing, and helping to deal with this enemy they never saw coming. The Schildts’ path to recovery in mourning was to do something, anything.
Ed said, “We were supported tremendously when our son passed. We stood in a receiving line at Stauffer Funeral Home for ten straight hours with Chris’ death. We were supported during the days and weeks and months afterward. When clarity came back, we said, ‘What can we do? How do we say thank you?’ The Schildts held an educational awareness event in April of 2017, called “Introduction to the Enemy,” during which the auditorium at Catoctin High School was filled.
Ed explained, “The ‘Introduction to the Enemy’ event puts addiction in the room with you as the monster that it is, and then it shows you the struggles. In the end, you’re supporting those who are dealing with a disease. It’s not a problem. It’s a disease.” He added, “This is a topic
that doesn’t normally draw a crowd. It made people more aware. From that, the community said, ‘What’s next?’”
The result of that first event was a challenge for Ed and Karen to continue to step up. Former Mayor and current Thurmont Town Commissioner Marty Burns attended that first event and told Ed that his opinion of addiction had changed because of it. From that point, Marty involved the Town of Thurmont and there were follow-up meetings and then the opportunity to create the Thurmont Addiction Commission (TAC).
TAC stands upon three pillars: Educational Awareness (Ed Schildt, Pillar Lead), Support and Recovery (Myra Derbyshire, Pillar Lead), and Prevention and Outreach (Susan Crone, Pillar Lead).
Educational Awareness is the broadest pillar and encompasses everything; Support and Recovery is a positive thing because it’s all about supporting people in recovery or seeking recovery; and Prevention and Outreach, that’s where Susan Crone’s FUSE Teen Center comes in; young people are shown alternatives to prevent addiction and provide positive options and results.
TAC is a growing group of advocates, who are providing information and resources to the community and empowering those who are doing good things in this battle right now.
The FUSE Teen Center is one example of a program TAC is empowering. Susan Crone is the founder of FUSE, a teen center where participants are encouraged to interact with each other without technology. This program has been running for a while now, and participants are truly having a blast.
Susan is a tenured teacher at Thurmont Elementary School, who stepped up to do something about the addiction and suicide frequency she was noticing. She is joined by many volunteers to operate FUSE, and they’re currently meeting at the Trinity United Church of Christ on East Main Street in Thurmont. It is a social option for teens from sixth to twelfth grade, from 4:00-6:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and Fridays from 6:00-9:00 p.m. Teens may come to just hang out with each other, play games, and be creative, or they can bring homework and FUSE volunteers will do their best to lend a hand. They are always looking for ideas and volunteers.
“FUSE is a place where teens have the undivided attention of volunteers who are there because they care about the future for them. We will do whatever we can to help them find the treasures that are already inside them waiting to be found,” said Susan.
To learn more, check out FUSE Teen Center on Facebook.
Chastity Fox, founder of the Music is Medicine Foundation nonprofit, is an advocate for addiction recovery after losing her brother, Richard “RJ” Holmes, to a heroin overdose in October 2016. She is close to opening The Path—Peer Recovery Community Center, which will offer free peer-to-peer addiction support with certified Peer Recovery Specialists. This is another project that TAC is empowering.
Other services at PATH include music therapy, yoga, meditation, classes for the community, family support groups, job-seeking skills, resume writing, and other resources that help a person with addiction become a functioning member of society.
This resource center is located at 31B Water Street in Thurmont. TAC is supporting it and assisting with the operation. There is an immediate need for volunteers, especially a person to write a business plan and a grant writer. Other needs are for donations of furniture and things like a television. Like the Music is Medicine Foundation on Facebook or call Chastity at 240-440-2020 or e-mail RJsLastingStrengthFoundation@gmail.com.
There’s so much that is being mixed in marijuana, cocaine, and heroin that’s not known. These aren’t pharmacists out there. They’re street dealers. They’re getting the cheapest ingredients to make the most profit, and they’re preying on people with addiction.
To become a warrior in our community’s battle against addiction, visit the Thurmont Addiction Commission on Facebook or seek out any of the resources in this article.