Pickerington Times-Sun

Tyler's Light anti-drug message earns national award

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A Pickerington-based drug education and awareness group's work to take its message to communities near and far recently earned it national recognition.

Tyler's Light began in 2011 as a grassroots effort by a group of Pickerington parents who responded to the death of 23-year-old Tyler Campbell, a Pickerington High School North football star who continued his playing career at the University of Akron before a shoulder injury and surgery introduced him to prescription painkillers.

The injury, Campbell's parents have said, led to his dependence on painkillers and ended with his death from a heroin overdose in the family's home.

That's when neighbors and friends rallied behind Tyler's parents, Christy and Wayne Campbell, and the seeds of Tyler's Light were planted.

Wayne Campbell took that support and founded Tyler's Light, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing resources to help people choose a drug-free life and to help families battling drug abuse.

Since 2011, Campbell and other volunteers have taken the Tyler's Light message to more than 100 schools, including many in Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. He estimates more than 55,000 people have now heard the group's presentation.

Tyler's Light also hosts regular parent support and education groups and Narcotics Anonymous meetings from its new headquarters at 1262 Hill Road N. in Pickerington.

Last month, those ongoing and growing efforts were recognized during the national Foundation for a Drug-Free World's forum on "Effective Demand Reduction and Why Education Works" on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.

The foundation named Campbell one its five inaugural recipients of the Drug-Free Hero Award.

"All of the recipients have been instrumental in bringing about drug education to thousands in their respective areas," a Foundation for a Drug-Free World press release stated.

For Campbell, the award was an honor, but certainly not a culmination of Tyler's Light work.

"We're going to keep moving forward with schools and we're going to try to get more parents," Campbell said last week. "Parents are the toughest ones to get into the room."

Tyler's Light has used some Foundation for a Drug-Free World materials as it seeks to inform others about the dangers of drugs and encourages those who think they know someone with a problem to "speak up."

But the group also has refined its mission to include Tyler's cautionary tale, as well as those from others who have fought through drug addiction.

In addition to the roughly 60-minute presentation Campbell and other organization representatives make, there's also a Tyler's Light survey designed to help people identify whether they or someone they know has a drug problem.

"It's kind of blossomed," Campbell said. "Our product is drug education.

"We go to schools, churches, businesses. Wherever we can get an audience."

Although that audience has expanded exponentially since the inception of Tyler's Light, Campbell still strives to do more.

And few things disturb him more than when he's told there are groups that don't need to hear the Tyler's Light message.

"We haven't done enough," Campbell said. "There are (schools) that've said 'no' right here in central Ohio, which bothers me.

"They don't think it's important enough to take an hour out of the day from the curriculum. It's probably the most important message their students can hear."

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