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‘I’m a Grown Man; I Still Call My Mom’
Written by Ernie Quatrani, Correspondent

      PL@Y says it's cool to ask for help with substance abuse


            Dan Sharkey was an outstanding baseball player in the Lehigh Valley, good enough to make it to the pros, until substance abuse derailed his dream. And more.

            Dan lost his girlfriend and others close to him, jobs, contact with family; 

Dan Sharkey speaks to the PL@Y audience at the YMCA on Saturday
while, left to right, Tara Lynn, Jake LaForet and Audrey Reed await their

went to jail; got kicked out of his house.

"And I deserved every little bit of it," he admitted to over 30 seven-to14-year old students, and many of their parents, at Project Live's third annual PL@Y event held at the Pennsburg YMCA last Saturday.

            Sharkey was one of four speakers who approached the topic of substance abuse from different    angles: Tara Lynn, whose parents were both addicts; Audrey Reed, a paramedic with the Upper Perkiomen Valley Ambulance; her work partner Jake LaForet, an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT); and Sharkey, who lived the hellscape of addiction but will be sober for seven years come May 22;

            Project Live member David Lintvedt, himself a recovering addict, emceed the event.

            All emphasized making good choices before the disease of addiction takes over

After the presentations, children in attendance, area first responders and other
adults at PL@Y participated in dodgeball.

the brain and sends users down the road to ruin. It is never too early to start working on the message that drug abuse is preventable.

            "In high school, in junior high, it all started when I wanted to smoke weed. Everything was 'cool' and that just catapulted me into always being into that party scene," Sharkey said.

            "I have something wrong in my brain where I don't know where to shut it off."

            Reed, a five-year veteran of the ambulance corp, addressed the same issue.

            "I know you guys get a lot of peer pressure in school," she said. "Sometimes, just one time is too much. You don't get that second chance. When [the ambulance goes] out, it could be the first time that child has tried anything."

            Reed stated that 40 ambulance runs were made to answer overdose calls last year, but many more than that involved substance abuse. Vehicle accidents for example.

            "Many calls that I've gone on, I've known the families," Reed told the assembled. "I've known the parents, my husband coached the kids on Little League teams, and I have to look at them and say, 'I'm sorry your son is dead.'"

            Tara Lynn never used substances but her father was a heroin addict and her mother abused alcohol and drugs until dying two years ago. The parents divorced when Tara was two.

            An emotional Lynn, now a successful businesswoman from Boyertown and mother of four, spoke of her own positive choices, including paying her way through college and earning a master's.

            "[Mom] really missed out. So much. I see what life is supposed to be like...You can always make different choices, and I always did. And she chose to not.

            Like Sharkey and Reed, Lynn addressed peer pressure. "Everyone who starts out dabbling with whatever it is, whether it's vape, whether it's weed, pills, however, it starts, it all starts social, typically."

            The panel also tackled the issue of being labeled a "snitch".

            Sharkey recounted that he has turned friends in a few times.

            "At the end of the day, they can hate me at that time, but they're still around to be able to be upset with me."

            Lintvedt urged the audience to get past the stigma of drugs and ask for help or reach out to those who are struggling. "Any troubles you have, you are not alone. There's nothing to be ashamed about to ask for help no matter what you're going through."

            Sharkey added, "I had an army to help me. It's okay to ask for help. I still ask for help. I'm a grown man; I still call my mom."

            After the presentations, the kids played several rounds of dodgeball with some area first responders and other adults and/or painted Rocks of Hope.

            Elyssa Sledgen, a sophomore at Upper Perk and one of several Leo members who volunteered at the event, noted, "It was, overall, very helpful for others going through the same situation, whether they're parents or friends, dealing with, substance abuse."

            PL@Y was organized again by Erin Sweed.

            "I hope the kids take from this that they are never alone and have many people who are willing to help in any way they can," Sweed said.





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