By Adam Strunk
Christa Jahay of Hesston doesn’t want another family to go through what her family dealt with or another life lost.
Jahay had a nephew die of an opioid overdose in 2018 and has seen others touched by addiction.
She’s helped organize to bring Chris Herren, a former NBA basketball player and motivational speaker to tell his story of dealing with and overcoming addiction.
“If I can prevent any other family from going through what our family went through, I would do this all the time,” she said.
She said her nephew became addicted after taking opioids for a wisdom tooth extraction and it progressed. His story is not uncommon. Some 40-45,000 Americans die annually of opioid overdoses, according to the Center for Disease Control.
After the death of Jahay’s nephew, the family decided to use memorial money to pay for Herren to speak at Andover and Andover Central after seeing him on a documentary on ESPN. Following the talk, Jahay said she knew she wanted to help bring Herren to Harvey County.
“His story is incredible,” she said. “He’s just doing amazing with how he’s living his life and choosing to do it and his whole deal is, if I can save one, it’s worth it.”
Jahay said that she believes Herren’s story will resonate with many students and their families as it did her.
She said Herren grew up in a small town, became a basketball standout in high school and started his path to addiction in a basement at a party. He then spent his life and basketball career struggling with those addictions.
“It is the connection he has with kids and human beings in general,” she said. “We walked out of there and my husband said that’s the best speaker I’ve ever heard in my life.”
Jahay said that she was able to raise $10,000 needed for the speaker by simply sending out emails to interested parties to help fund raise. She said she also received a $5,000 grant for the process.
“This is a parent initiative and this is where it needed to start,” she said. “That’s the only way we’re going to get our coaches teachers and activity people to come together as a community and surround these kids and let them know there are other alternatives.”
Herren will speak twice, once privately to Hesston students and then at 7 p.m. May 4 at Hesston High School, which is open to the community and area. The event is free to attend and doors open at 6:30.
“Everyone’s welcome to come,” Jahay said. “The STAND initiative has been helpful in getting the other schools that have STAND programs already going on and getting their parents.”