By John Zaktansky
The Daily Item
Step-by-step, pedal-by-pedal, each of my daughters reached the important milestone of riding their bikes without training wheels this past summer.
To them, the ability to ride a bike meant gaining a certain amount of freedom at our family campground — a chance to keep up with friends, explore new territory and help run items from Point A to Point B.
This Thursday, Middleburg resident George Weller will be using his bicycle to help others, too. Weller is a drug and alcohol counselor and clinical supervisor with Gaudenzia in Sunbury and Middleburg. He is also an avid cyclist ever since a friend got him involved in the outdoors activity several years ago.
“I was out of shape and wanted to get healthy. A friend suggested that I try cycling,” Weller said. “I bought a bike and built up from riding eight miles. It took a few years and a lot of hard effort to get to the point that I’m at now.”
That point includes a 100-mile awareness ride Weller has planned later this week. On Thursday morning, he’ll begin at the Gaudenzia outpatient facility in Harrisburg, riding north to the Middleburg Gaudenzia location and then east to the Sunbury and eventually the Berwick offices. The total trip will eclipse the 100-mile mark.
“National statistics state that one in four families are directly affected by substance abuse. This places a tremendous burden on our communities,” Weller said. “The financial cost alone drives the majority of our prision system. DUI and drug-related charges are often the sign of an untreated subsatnce abuse problem. The emotional costs are immeasurable.”
According to Weller, what is measurable is the benefits of quality treatment. Statistics show that every $1 invested in addiction treatment saves $7 in reduced crime and criminal justice costs. Factoring in health care costs, the ratio is closer to 1-to-12 in savings.
“With proper support in the forms of treatment, community-based support groups and the courts addressing underlying substance dependance issues, recovery on an individual, family and societal level is possible,” Weller said.
The 100-mile ride throughout the Valley is geared towards awareness this year, with hopes that it will become an annual benefit ride that will grow in size and fundraising scope. Weller already has received donations towards this year’s ride and those interested in helping the cause can get involved via Gaudenzia’s website: www.gaudenzia.org.
The biggest hurdle in our region to addiction treatment, according to Weller, is a reliable source of transportation in a spread-out, rural environment.
How does one cyclist hope to tackle large-scale transportation issues via a 100-mile trek across the region?
The same way two young girls learn to shed their training wheels and attack every nook and cranny of their favorite family campground.
One pedal at a time.
For more information on Gaudenzia’s addiction treatment programs, go to www.gaudenzia.org. Email comments to email@example.com