Treatment court graduate Beth Ann Buckingham said she didn’t “want to miss out on life anymore” and thanked her sister Holly Anders and family and others for getting her to where she is today. STAFF PHOTO/ROBERT BAKER
BY ROBERT L. BAKER
Wyoming County Press Examiner
TUNKHANNOCK – Six individuals got their lives back in a special way at the Wyoming/Sullivan County Drug Treatment Graduation program Thursday night at the Triton Hose Co. fire hall.
The event marked the completion of a rigorous minimum 2-year program, but to keynote speaker Nick DeAngelo, it was more than that.
After introducing himself and his role at Clearbrook and with his wife leading meetings in Tunkhannock, he asked the soon-to-be-minted graduates and their families to stand.
“What’s miraculous about these graduates is they have earned the right to be before you and re-enter society,” he said. “The goal is to once again be productive – which they have demonstrated here – but that takes a team effort not just by families, but everyone in the helping professions.”
He added, “We’re all shepherds. Some of us get to see people at their worst, when they’ve hit rock bottom. And then there’s this. It’s the closest thing to a miracle we will see, and it’s wonderful that all of you are here to support them.”
Wyoming County President Judge Russell Shurtleff opened the night noting that the seventh graduation ceremony had six in it, but with one- Bradley Button – in the hospital and unable to attend.
He acknowledged that before 2014 would be over the treatment court will have reached 100 persons, but the number was presently at 85.
He reeled off some statistics about how treatment court was better than incarceration, and the $250,000 collected in fines and restitution is money that comes back to the counties, not to mention the 8,000 community hours that allows them to “give something back.”
The graduation ceremony was a gift in memory of Randy Vieczorek, whose mother Sandy said her son didn’t get the resources out there now, because they weren’t there when he died from a drug overdose in 2004.
“I’ve been a witness to all this from the very beginning,” she said. “We can all be so proud of what you’ve accomplished.”
“We start to see a tragic life wasted, and then come back,” she said. “It shines a light on the basic fact that addicts are good people. They just need to learn how to treat things differently.”
One by one, Brian Nealon, Dawn Meluso, Beth Ann Buckingham, Amy Sue Long, and Thomas LaValley, got up before those attending and gave a short speech before introducing a sponsor.
LaValley pretty much spoke for all when he said, “I was a mess when I started this. I didn’t want to go to jail, and I soon found out there were people who could help me, and wanted to help me.”
He added, “It was life changing, for sure.”
His grandmother Judy Owens, took the microphone and spoke to the roughly 200 assembled for the graduation with tears in her eyes, “It’s wonderful to have Tom back. God bless everyone who worked so hard to make this happen.”
Judge Shurtleff closed the graduation by suggesting the new grads needed to continue to take advantage of resources out there, particularly meetings.
“Although I’ve never been an addict, I do know that those who don’t keep going to meetings will come back to see me in a different setting while I sit as judge,” he said. “Let’s not have that happen.”