OCEAN CITY – Officials with Growing Hope and their partners at Live Wire Media are raising funds to bring speaker Michael DeLeon, founder of the national addiction education and prevention organization Steered Straight, to the Roland E. Powell Convention Center in late February.
DeLeon, a former addict, prisoner and gang member, will be sharing his story and solutions to the growing drug epidemic facing both Worcester County and the nation.
“A lot of times we have these events all over the country to try to get people aligned and motivated,” he said. “But 90 percent of the time we don’t know what to do.”
DeLeon said his presentation will be open to all community members – parents, students, law enforcement officials, business owners and more – and will emphasize recovery.
“There are a lot of things they can do,” he said. “But a lot of times they don’t know their views will be heard.”
DeLeon added that he encourages state legislators and local government officials to attend the event as well.
“Everyone should come out and hear what is going on across the country,” he said. “We have to come together. As the adage goes, it takes a whole village to do this.”
Ruthie Shofi of Growing Hope, an action-based addiction education and prevention group in Worcester County, said her group reached out to DeLeon last spring and brought the speaker to the Convention Center on Memorial Day weekend. Since that time, she and her husband, Brian, have partnered with Live Wire Media to bring him back to the area.
Brad Hoffman, CEO of Live Wire Media and founding member of Growing Hope, said addiction is prevalent in the community and added that Growing Hope wants to offer something that can help.
“This is our backyard so it’s easier to relate to it because the stories are people we know,” Hoffman said in a statement. “Their struggles are seen and felt by this community. It makes you want to help. Friends, friends’ children, young, old, rich, poor. It’s touching everyone. We just want to help find some type of solutions.”
To cover the cost of DeLeon’s appearance, officials have put together two fundraising events throughout the month of February.
On Monday, Feb. 6, Hoffman and local restaurateur Shawn Harman will be guest bartending at Burley Oak with Chino Rankin providing live entertainment. All tips, 10 percent of the bar ring and raffle proceeds will go toward to cost of bringing DeLeon to the resort.
Another fundraiser is planned for Sunday, Feb. 12 from 4-8 p.m. at Chipotle Mexican Grill in West Ocean City. Fifty percent of all proceeds will be steered toward the DeLeon’s expenses.
Individuals can also donate to the organization’s GoFundMe account at gofundme.com/be-a-part-of-the-Solution.
The speaking engagement, entitled “Be a Part of The Solution” will take place Feb. 28 at 6 p.m. at the Convention Center. The event is free to the public.
“He has a depth of knowledge unequaled with over 15 years of refining this program,” Hoffman said. “That is why he is so acclaimed by law enforcement, educators and addiction professionals around the nation. He seemed like the star quarterback in this field. Once we all met I was even more impressed. He gets it … and shares it.”
DeLeon holds many degrees and certifications in subjects relating to drug and alcohol abuse. He is the founder of Steered Straight and producer for two documentaries – “Kids Are Dying” and “An American Epidemic”.
For more information about this seminar, or to learn more about the two fundraising events, visit the Growing Hope Facebook page. To be an event sponsor, contact Ruthie Shofi at 443-783-9723 and [email protected], or Brian Shofi at 443-783-9524 and [email protected]
“This problem exists everywhere,” DeLeon said. “We have to come together.”