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Drug Court grads celebrate sobriety

October 2, 2018

Drug Court Coordinator Joe Vogel, center, pauses his speech to present the “Beast Award” from the game of kickball played at the first Friends of Drug Court Picnic and Kickball Celebration Saturday.

Despite a chilly morning, around 175 people enjoyed a game of kickball, bean bags, a bouncy house, croquet and fellowship in Cooke Park Saturday.

On first glance, no one would know they were family, friends, supporters and members of the local sober community.

That was exactly the point of the first Friends of Drug Court Picnic and Kickball Celebration event, which was organized by Olmsted County Drug Court alumni and the community response team.

As the group enjoyed a classic picnic of pulled pork, coleslaw and baked beans after the game, alumni Jeff Campbell joined a handful of drug court graduates who took the microphone to speak about what the program meant to them.

“I believe that when I realized that I was an alcoholic and that it was going to kill me, I reached out for help and received that help,” the 69-year-old said. “That was the turning point for me.”

Campbell — who is almost two years sober — said the celebration was an important event for the whole community, not just those involved.

“I think the most important thing is that we give drug court exposure to the public, because we can only testify to the fact that it’s a very effective program for a problem that is of epic, epidemic proportions,” he said. “We need to let people know that programs like EmPower, Recovery is Happening and the drug court program have dedicated professionals that know how to provide the help as needed.”

Drug Court Coordinator Joe Vogel said that is one of the central themes to events like Saturday’s.

“You all showing up today is important not only for the alumni to see, but for the community to see,” he said.

Vogel was excited about the turnout and success of the day, but he said this is just the first of many similar events to come. He said sober events like this are crucial to showing that life can be lived with fun and sobriety, for not only drug court graduates and participants, but everyone in their lives as well.

“This is a way to give back to the whole community,” Vogel said. “We expect people to stay sober, but it’s important to have events like this to support them.”

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