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Drug House Odyssey not just for students

February 12, 2020
By CHUCK BALLARO ( , North Fort Myers Neighbor

This past week, thousands of Lee County fifth-graders came to the Lee Civic Center for the Drughouse Odyssey, the annual event put on by the Coalition for a Drug Free Southwest Florida and many of its partners to show the consequences of making bad decisions when it comes to drinking and driving.

On Wednesday night, church groups, families and other people young and old were able to come to the annual open house, where they not only got to see the five-scene walk-through play.

Taking part were students from Mariner High School, who annually participate as actors in the play.

Article Photos

Cape Coral Police Officer Perry Wilson pulls over Tahnia Velacruz during a scene in the Drughouse Odyssey at the Lee Civic Center on Wednesday.


Megan Cooper got involved because a friend got her involved.

"I was asked to do this and I signed up because it's a great cause. Doing this together has brought us all together and we're helping so many kids learn what's really out there," Cooper said.

Also involved every year is the Cape Coral Police Department, which conducts the sobriety test scene under the pavilion. Deputy Chief Lisa Barnes visited with her husband and said it is important for her department to do this every year.

"I'm on the board for the coalition, and with this being family night, we wanted to support this," Barnes said. "The police department is very supportive of this project and traffic is our scene. We want kids to stop and thin k about the decisions they make and the consequences of those choices."

Among those who took the tour was Kelsey Craft, Miss Florida for America, who was convinced by Deb Comella, executive director of the Coalition for a Drug-Free SWFL, to come, as her platform is to reduce drug use in kids.

"I've been working with the First Lady of Florida, Mrs. DeSantis, and talking about how we can increase and drug education in our schools," said Craft, who is as a physician's assistant. "I started in emergency medicine, so I have seen youth, children, die of overdoses, drinking, accidents, so I learned how we can touch youth at an early age."

After people went through the play, they got to spend some time with Tre Boston of the Carolina Panthers, who talked to them about the decisions he made, the friends he lost through bad decisions, and that aligning yourself with people who will push you to success is the best way to go.

"This being my second year here means a lot to me. I want to convince them to be different. It starts with having friends who are like-minded," Boston said. "I knew what I wanted to be and the steps I took to be there. You can't be surprised by life. You have to have a plan and have laser-like focus to attain it."

Iris De Hoyas, executive director of the Tre Boston Beyond Belief Foundation and Tre's mother, said they believe in working with at-risk kids and persons who want to break generational cycles of poverty, illiteracy, and incarceration. That starts with telling them what not to do.

"It's important for us to get kids while they're young and make sure they go in the right direction and to use education to reach their goals," De Hoyas said. "We want them to know what success truly is. It's not reality TV, it's being able to get a job and care for their family."

Austin Arringdale-Klein, an eighth-grader, got the message from everything he saw and heard.

"I learned not to drive under the influence and you make your own decisions," Austin said. "I made the decision to get good grades. It's good to have a family that gives you support and help me because it's hard to make the right decisions sometimes."

Amber Vevang, an 11th-grader at Oasis High School, said Odyssey opened her eyes to what can happen with one bad decision.

"It teaches you that every action has consequences, which can effect you in the future. The car crash scene showed someone dying and they had a close relationship," Vevang said.



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