Join the Journey fair arms Burnet community in fight against drug abuse

STAFF WRITER JENNIFER FIERRO

Heart of Hope Counseling and Mediation set up a wheel at a previous Join the Journey Safe and Drug-Free Wellness Fair that children could spin for a prize. The counseling group is one of several that participates in the event to help families stay healthy and happy. This year’s fair is 5-6:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 8, in the R.J. Richey Elementary gym, 500 E. Graves in Burnet. Courtesy photo

Heart of Hope Counseling and Mediation set up a wheel at a previous Join the Journey Safe and Drug-Free Wellness Fair that children could spin for a prize. The counseling group is one of several that participates in the event to help families stay healthy and happy. This year’s fair is 5-6:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 8, in the R.J. Richey Elementary gym, 500 E. Graves in Burnet. Courtesy photo

BURNET — Following the death of her son in December 2011 from a methadone overdose, Janet Christiansen faced two options: crumble from her sorrow and regret or honor her son by equipping parents and the community with information to battle the scourge of drug use and abuse.

She chose to honor her 21-year-old son, Caleb Christiansen, by spearheading Join the Journey in 2013, a community-wide response to the drug problem.

The program has grown to include the Join the Journey Safe and Drug-Free Wellness Fair, which is 5-6:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 8, in the gym at R.J. Richey Elementary School, 500 E. Graves in Burnet. Admission is free, and there will be free pizza and door prizes.

The fair will feature several programs and vendors as well as information about drug-abuse prevention and general health and wellness.

Caleb Christiansen died after taking the prescription drug methadone, which another man had given to him. After his death, Janet Christiansen began wondering what clues she missed or what her son had hidden from her and others. She also wondered if other families were missing the same things.

She began talking with community leaders and others about the drug issue in the Burnet community, and discovered many shared her concerns. This led to the creation of Join the Journey in May 2015, with her goal being to provide the community with a place to learn about drug-abuse issues.

That also led to the wellness fair, which is Join the Journey’s biggest event.

“We know people aren’t going to come just for information on drugs,” Christiansen said regarding the Feb. 8 event. “We offer a broad spectrum. We have a lot of vendors who come and help people with good health.”

The vendors include experts on nutrition and exercise and support groups that emphasize good habits and places to go for help. Members of the Burnet fire and police departments and EMS will be in attendance.

Christiansen said people shouldn’t think drug abuse doesn’t affect them if they don’t use drugs. She noted peace officers must spend time investigating drug-related crimes and problems. That impacts arrests and the court system, which are all paid for by taxpayers.   

Drug abuse also has a very real effect on a community from crime to child-welfare issues. It works its tentacles through almost every part of society.

Christiansen hopes the wellness fair begins a dialogue about drugs and alcohol abuse. And though the topic can be a heavy one, she and other organizers are encouraging parents to bring their children.

Besides, there’s more to the fair than drug awareness and education.

“There’s something for everyone,” Christiansen said. “We want them to know how to stay safe and drug-free.”

After her son died, Christiansen went through extreme grief coupled with a deep regret that she was unable to rescue him. So her mission now is to equip other families with knowledge and resources so they don’t experience her pain.

“I hope they come away with information they didn’t know previously,” she said, “and as a family, to stay safe and drug-free.”

Contact Burnet Consolidated Independent School District superintendent administrative assistant Sharon Schwartz at sschwartz@burnetcisd.net or (512) 756-2124 for more information on the event or about sponsorships and vendor opportunities..

jfierro@thepicayune.com

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