Penn. First Responders Raise Funds for Opioid Epidemic, Receive Accolades at Banquet

Penn. First Responders Raise Funds for Opioid Epidemic, Receive Accolades at Banquet

News Aug 21, 2017

Aug. 20—First responders and United Way of the Laurel Highlands are both at the forefront in the battle against the local area's opioid epidemic.

On Saturday, those two groups came together for the First Responders Banquet, a combined tribute and fundraiser, at the Masonic Temple in Johnstown. Dozens of first responders attended the event, which raised money for the Botvin LifeSkills program supported by the United Way. The Greater Johnstown and Cambria Masonic lodges, along with Conemaugh MedSTAR, hosted the event.

"I think from a first responder's standpoint, you could probably—absolutely—agree as to that being a major issue in our community," local United Way President Bill McKinney said. "You deal with that, I imagine, almost on a daily basis. So when we did (a community) assessment, drug and alcohol abuse was across the board.

"What we chose to focus on was on the prevention side.

"Let's stop it from happening in the first place. Let's put our investments where we can stop it from happening."

Botvin LifeSkills is an internationally known program that fosters youth development with the goal of keeping children away from tobacco, alcohol, drugs and risky behavior.

Event organizers hope to raise $10,000 for the program, which is in 24 school districts throughout Cambria and Somerset counties.

"This year we decided to raise funds for a worthy cause (at the banquet)," said Rick Fetzer, worshipful master of Greater Johnstown Lodge 538.

"We kind of raised the bar from what we've done in past years."

State Sen. Wayne Langerholc Jr. and Cambria County President Commissioner Thomas Chernisky paid tribute to the first responders.

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Langerholc called them the "backbone of our community."

He then told the men and women: "You're why we feel safe. You're the ones that we call when things are at their worst."

Chernisky expressed similar sentiments, saying, "You run into issues. You run into circumstances. You run into shootings. You run into fires. You run to car accidents. You run into danger.

"Because of you guys and your families, who support and love you, you allow us to live our everyday lives."

The Tribune-Democrat, Johnstown, Pa.

Dave Sutor
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