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Positive work being done to help end drug abuse/mental health illness

Students attending Mid-Year were: front row, Madison Schweighart (ALAH); Lainey Ehlers (Kansas); Kaley Thompson (ALAH); Regann Bowles (ALAH). Back row: Teayra Barron (Arcola); Zack Woodard (ALAH); Kyla Gough (Tuscola).

Staff Writer

The past few weeks have been unsettling sad times for the Village of Atwood with the deaths of two young people, Karen Fennessy and Eian Urban. These have been tragic deaths that are difficult to explain why things like this happen. What happens to young people who go down the wrong path?

This week, we want to put a positive spin on what is being done to help young people to grow up on the right path. Stacy Welch lost her daughter Shalynn on October 14, 2017 from a drug overdose. She was only 22 years old. This was, and still is, devastating to Stacy, her family and friends. You just don’t get over a loss such as this.

Stacy is a very strong individual and has taken Shalynn’s death from a tragic situation into a positive in Shalynn’s name. Shalynn lives on in Stacy’s work with Shalynn’s Hope. Stacy tells us in her own words…“Four years ago, Shalynn’s Hope began working with a group of high school students from the area. Since then, Shalynn’s Hope has sent these students to Cebrin Goodman Teen Institute (CGTI) at EIU and Mid-Year in Bloomington. These students have taken on the name Operation Hope, and focus on the many issues that face our youth such as substance and alcohol use, peer pressure, bullying and the negative effects of social media. They work together to come up with ideas that will help others and promote healthy choices. Last year they donated 28 age-appropriate backpacks to the Douglas and Piatt County Sheriff’s Offices for children who have been removed from their homes due to neglect and/or other dangerous situations, packed and distributed over 600 SAT/PSAT Survival Kits for students taking the test and hosted a Hidden in Plain Sight exhibit.”

Stacy continues, “The students arrived home from Mid-Year in Bloomington a few weeks ago with big plans to expand the group and plan more activities in the area. They are in the works of planning the first meeting which will be open to any high school student in the area. They are hoping to bring the excitement from CGTI right here to our communities!”

If you are interested in collaborating with Operation Hope, contact Stacy Welch at 217-428-0566. Both Shalynn’s Hope and Operation Hope are funded by donations. You can donate by choosing Shalynn’s Hope as the recipient while shopping on AmazonSmile and Kroger Grocery Stores, or by mailing a check to Shalynn’s Hope, P. O. Box 672, Atwood, IL 61913.

Attending Mid-Year were Madison Schweighart, Kaley Thompson and Regann Bowles-ALAH and Lainey Ehlers-Kansas High School. Teayra Barron, Zack Woodard and Kyla Gough are now in college and attended as staff. Stacy says that these young adults, along with Regann, are original members and this is their 4th year going to camp.

Regann Bowles has been with Operation Hope for four years. During her time with this organization she has been able to learn and experience new things that she would have otherwise never thought possible. Regann states, “This organization has given me an education on how drug use and mental health affects youth around me. It has given me skills such as how to properly administer Narcan, which is a substance that can help stop an overdose. It also has given me the courage to step out of my comfort zone. Every year since 2019 Operation Hope has sent a group of high schoolers, myself included to a leadership camp called CGTI. Here we are able to brainstorm more activities that we can bring back to our towns. The organization has also given me the opportunity to grow as a person in a safe and encouraging environment. I can strongly say that Operation Hope has helped to mold me into the person that I am today. With any and all future events, I hope that we are able to share this with as many local youths as possible.”

Shalynn’s Hope continues to support those who struggle with addiction and their families, hosts Narcan Trainings, awards a scholarship to an ALAH senior, and has spoken at many schools and conferences. Operation Hope is the youth program sponsored by Shalynn’s Hope.

If you know of someone that is in need of assistance, please contact Stacy. Since Shalynn’s death, Stacy is devoted to do what she can to help young people or anyone, with drug abuse. The Village of Atwood, as well as any other town, needs to do whatever they can to wipe out drugs. It is a big job and everyone must work together.

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