Troy's Take: Be Grateful And Say Thank You To Project Purple

Troy ClarksonAmy Rader Photographer - Troy Clarkson

Think for a minute.

Try to think of someone you know—better yet someone you know and love—whose life has been touched by addiction. I bet it didn’t take long. 

Some estimates suggest that as many as 25 million Americans suffer from ravages of the disease of addiction. If you estimate a moderate number of loved ones affected at three or four, that simple and powerful math points to more than 100 million people impacted each day by the abuse of drugs and alcohol. 

Falmouth is no different. In every neighborhood, at every school, and from the corridors of town hall to the halls of justice at the Falmouth District Court, the impacts—economic, societal, and to the community psyche—are felt daily. The news this week that a particularly virulent strain of heroin resulting in the tragic death of at least one Falmouthite is pursuing a sinister path throughout our community brings a particularly realistic and painful backdrop to the presence of this scourge in our community.

Falmouth’s Kevin Mikolazyk understands this better than most. As president of the Herren Project, a nonprofit corporation dedicated to assisting families touched by addiction, he has seen, and sees firsthand, how addiction can tear a family apart—and how recovery can bring them back together.

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Sober himself for nearly 10 years, Kevin has built a successful future on the foundation of recovery and now brings his experience, strength and hope to others. His work with the project is based in his near lifelong friendship with the project’s namesake, Chris Herren, a former college basketball and NBA star who himself fell to his knees at the hands of the disease and found a path to recovery.

Kevin and Chris spent many days together in the throes of addiction. Kevin even moved to Fresno to be with Chris during his playing days at Fresno State—and their paths both led to the gut-wrenching loneliness and despair of an endpoint, a “bottom” as it is called in the recovery community. Each found their way to Falmouth and to the resources of the Gosnold Treatment Center and its support facilities. Each found their way out of the horrific suffering and pain of a daily battle with the monster inside. And now they each dedicate their time to helping others—and the families who care for them—find their way. Falmouth is a huge part of that. Kevin and Chris both began their journey in sobriety and slowly rebuilt their lives here. Kevin continues to live here with his wife and daughter. “Falmouth has raised me,” said the grateful professional, who now, in addition to his work with the Herren Project, owns his own real estate company.

The Herren Project and Chris Herren himself are spreading a message of recovery nationwide through “Project Purple,” an effort to create a sober culture in our nation’s youth and spread a message that it’s okay to live a life free of drugs and alcohol. “We’re helping kids band together. Chris tells them that they are perfect just the way they are,” noted Kevin to me as we shared a coffee at the Daily Brew this week, a proud gleam in his eye clearly indicating the passion and conviction he holds for this important work. The name developed in 2011, when Chris noticed a group of students in the front row wearing purple at a school assembly where he was speaking on his journey. To the snickering of other students, the kids in purple identified themselves as kids living sober lives. Chris was inspired by their courage, and Project Purple was born.

Project Purple is now in more than 300 schools nationwide, with a vision to triple that in the near future. More than 300,000 people nationwide are wearing purple this week to show support for the project. I’ve never been so proud to wear a purple tie to work. 

Kevin and Chris will be running in the Boston Marathon in April to raise both funds and awareness for the project. They are seeking support and publicity. More information is available on the project’s website: goprojectpurple.com/the-herren-project/ . 

Think of someone you know, better yet someone you know and love, whose life has been touched by addiction. Then think of the good work of Kevin Mikolazyk and Chris Herren. Then be grateful and say thanks.

(Mr. Clarkson may be contacted at votetroy99@aol.com and followed on Twitter @TroyClarkson59.)

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