Experience with addiction spurs family to help
Jarrad Hedes/Times News Claudia Sarge McDonald, left, and Louisa Sarge, both of Lansford, look over a drug and alcohol identification display provided by the Pennsylvania State Police at Tuesday's National Night Out in Jim Thorpe.
Claudia Sarge McDonald and Louisa Sarge, both Lansford residents, hopped out of their pool Tuesday night and made their way to Jim Thorpe's Memorial Park.
Although the town's National Night Out, a drug and alcohol addiction awareness event, is in its third year, it was a new phenomenon to the women as both read about it several days before in the newspaper.
They weren't just in Jim Thorpe for the food or to catch up with friends. Both made the roughly 10-mile trip because drug addiction had affected their lives and they had a success story to share.
"We had a family member who was hooked on heroin," McDonald said. "She was fortunate enough to get picked for A&E Network's television show "Intervention" in 2006 and was able to make a full recovery. We had never heard about the National Night Out event and came over because you never know if a person needs someone to talk to who has been through this. More and more people are reaching out for help, and that's a great thing."
Thousands, many who were also looking to help themselves, a friend or family member, packed Memorial Park for the four-hour event as they had the previous two years.
Over 50 vendors ranging from the Jim Thorpe Police Department to Drug Free Pennsylvania and first-time participants Peaceful Knights, a local agency helping area homeless, lined the park property distributing pamphlets and conversing with attendees.
The night featured food, games, crafts, a dunk tank and face painting, among other activities.
Jim Thorpe resident Taylor Erickson said he doesn't know anyone with an addiction yet, but came to Tuesday's event to arm himself with knowledge should he ever be in a situation where he needs to help a friend.
"Drugs and alcohol can plague anyone, and becoming addicted doesn't necessarily mean they are a bad person. It may just mean they need help and someone to lean on," Erickson said.
Organizers, he said, work hard each year preparing for the event, and he was pleased to see Memorial Park buzzing with activity.
McDonald and Sarge's family member got the help she needed and now is an interventionist herself, working in California.
"I believe going on the show saved her life, because if she didn't get the 90 days of treatment it provided her and completed two years of sober living, she would have 100 percent relapsed," Sarge said.
Ironically, Sarge didn't watch the show before. She lived drug addiction through her family member and didn't need to see it on television.
"Claudia finally convinced me to write to the show," she said. "It was a last resort. We were grasping at straws and had done everything up to that point."
For McDonald and Sarge, Jim Thorpe's event likely won't be the last stop on their journey to get help for area addicts.
"We're looking to start an Al-Anon group in Lansford," Sarge said. "If you don't go and you don't understand how to help someone cope even after they get out of rehabilitation, you can be a trigger in sending them into relapse."