STAFF WRITER JENNIFER FIERRO
Janet Burns’s pain of losing her son, Caleb Christiansen, to a methadone overdose never subsides. She just turns that pain into motivation.
From that desire came Join the Journey, a community-wide response to the drug problem in the Highland Lakes.
Join the Journey’s main event is the Safe & Drug Free Wellness Fair, now in its sixth year. It’s 5-6:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 7, in the Burnet Middle School auxiliary gym, 1201 N. Main. Free pizza will be served.
“We want to get the education out there, the awareness to help others avoid the tragedy our family deals with every day,” Burns said. “Caleb died in 2011, but it’s still fresh. There’s always a void.”
She believes early education and opportunities for treatment are keys in fighting the drug problem.
“Our response is so important,” she said. “You cannot get lax about fighting drug abuse in your families and your communities.”
The fair features several programs and vendors, and booths will have information on drug abuse, prevention programs, general health, and wellness. Burns purposely invited groups that fight drug problems firsthand because these experts can share the signs of drug abuse in a person. That’s something that made Burns question herself the most when she thinks of Caleb, who took methadone given to him by another person. Were there signs she missed that would have triggered an action on her part to help him? What did her son hide from her and others?
Drawings for door prizes will be at 5:45 p.m. and 6:25 p.m. To be eligible, families must take a TREC through the fair. TREC stands for Treatment, Response, Education, and Communication. Families will gather tokens they can exchange for a prize ticket for the drawings.
Those attending can watch short films on a bank of Chromebooks.
“Kids put earphones on and listen to information videos on the truth about drugs,” Burns said. “It’s a way kids like to get information in a technical way.”
The fair also will have an inflatable obstacle course for the first time, Burns said.
She has cautioned that people shouldn’t think drug abuse doesn’t affect them if they don’t have a family member who uses drugs. She noted that taxpayers pay police officers and other first responders who are addressing this very issue. They’ll be at the fair, too.
“We want to encourage people to come,” Burns said. “It could impact their child’s future. It’s an easy way for parents and kids to get educated on an important and deadly topic. It’s not a scare tactic. Our purpose is to help families stay safe.”