Student-athletes throughout the county took part in a day of awareness on Friday, March 31, and although the teams — such as the softball teams from Northeast and Broadneck — were competing to win, they were also united by a mission of combating opioid addiction.
Northeast High School’s tennis team is among the groups of student-athletes who are spreading awareness to combat opioid addiction.
Athletes Unite In Fight Against Heroin
If you don’t know someone who is affected by heroin or opioid use, you know someone who knows someone who is.
That’s two degrees of separation, and it’s the thinking behind an effort to raise awareness of the heroin- and opioid-use epidemic in Anne Arundel County. That effort is spearheaded by the student-athlete-led Captains Club at Northeast High School.
Student-athletes throughout the county took part in a day of awareness on Friday, March 31, the first day of spring in which all county sports teams had games against county competition. While the student-athletes were playing to win, they were also united in spreading awareness of the alarming rate of heroin overdose deaths in Anne Arundel County. For their games, athletes at every county school wore purple wristbands and T-shirts designed to raise awareness of an issue increasingly affecting communities around the county. The purple wristbands had #StopTheMadness in red lettering as a call to combat heroin use and overdose, as well as the phone number 888-328-2518, a hotline for addiction help. The T-shirts were emblazoned with “2” to denote the two degrees between everyone in the community and someone who is dealing with addiction.
Northeast Athletic Director Ken Miller and Assistant Athletic Director Tim Stedman came up with the idea after the recent death of an early-2000s graduate of Northeast who overdosed. Miller also recalled Northeast graduate Lance Eager, who died of an overdose in 2014 at the age of 20.
Miller said there are close to 20 graduates he knows personally who have died of an overdose in recent years and months. In conversations with the Captains Club students, Miller and Stedman found stark evidence they were not alone in knowing people affected by heroin.
“As we’re going around talking to our teams, half to three-quarters of the team raise their hand, knows someone, a community member or someone they know, who has been affected by heroin or opioids,” said Miller. “[The awareness campaign] just seemed a logical thing to do.”
The ideas to spread awareness followed, and they quickly agreed that the problem extends well beyond Pasadena and the Northeast community, and that they should get all the schools involved. Miller sought permission from county Coordinator of Athletics Clayton Culp, who gave the initiative his full support. Before long, Northeast had ordered 4,800 bracelets — enough for every spring athlete and coach — and distributed them to every county high school.
Immediately, a student came to Miller asking for three more bracelets, wanting to give them to three neighbors he knows who are struggling with heroin addiction.
Miller believes the county-wide show of support through athletics was and continues to be one of solidarity in the fight against opioid addiction. He also sees that support as a lifeline to anyone personally struggling with addiction.
“We’re going to compete against each other, but right now, we’re one team united against heroin and opioid addiction, and we’re just trying to do something for solidarity,” said Miller. “The families that are affected, the people who are addicted, it’s to let them know there’s help out there. You can take your bracelet off and give it to them, give them the phone number and just let them know there’s help. Do I know every kid we’re giving a bracelet to is going to need it? No. But if one person gets the help they need, this is successful.”
Stedman was proud to see the students take charge and get the entire county involved, and he noted that the kids will continue to combat the heroin and opioid crisis.
“We have lost many former Eagles from this horrible epidemic, and it was time to do something about it,” said Stedman. “The county showed that we are not alone in this issue, and we united together to have our voices heard. It was amazing to see every school do their part and unite together in this fight. We will continue this campaign and work to make a difference.”
Treatment For Addiction
Treatment for addiction to heroin saves lives. If you or a loved one needs help with substance abuse or addiction, connect with health and substance abuse resources by dialing 211 or by dialing 888-328-2518.