The Heart of It (Part Two) by Amelia Blades Steward

Sometimes it takes a while to process things. Such was the case after witnessing the meeting of Casey Artzer and his heart donor family, Elizabeth, Rodney, English and Chloe Tong in June of this year. The Artzers arrived on a beautiful Eastern Shore day full of sunshine and hope. I had arrived early to record their meeting, trying to stay in the background of this poignant and touching reunion. This vantage point allowed me another perspective, that of the Tong’s Corgi, Maggie, and it is from Maggie’s point of view that I can share part of this story.

Pictured back row, left to right, are Chloe, Rodney and English Tong. Pictured middle row, left to right, are Kathy and Casey Artzer and Elizabeth Tong. Pictured in front row is Lisa Colaianni, Donor Family Advocate with The Washington Regional Transplant Community.

I had met Maggie in puppy class with my Corgi, Schooder. Like most Corgis, Maggie liked to be center stage, greeting people enthusiastically when arriving, jumping with delight and eager to be petted. I guess my focus was still on her a bit when the Casey and his mother Kathy arrived at the Tongs house in June. I wondered how her welcome would interfere with the embraces that the families would share.

As Casey came down the Tong’s sidewalk, seeing Rodney for the first time, the two embraced and held onto each other. My eyes drifted down to Maggie and I realized that she was not jumping up to be greeted, but instead, she was sitting mindfully at Rodney’s feet, looking up at Casey as if to say, “I know you are special and a part of my family too.” We walked inside where Elizabeth Tong was waiting in the foyer of their home. Again, I was struck by Maggie’s attention and behavior, sitting dutifully at Elizabeth’s feet and looking up at Casey in wonder.

Twenty-four years ago, Rodney and Elizabeth Tong, and their daughters English and Chloe, of Royal Oak lost their son and brother, Hunter Tong, age two and one half, to an unexpected death. Hunter’s parents chose to donate Hunter’s organs and his heart went to a one-year old child, Casey Artzer in Topeka, KS. This June, Casey came to meet the Tong family. He had already met English Tong seven years ago, but decided to reach out to the whole family after reading English’s blog post about the visit.

Lisa Colaianni, Donor Family Advocate with The Washington Regional Transplant Community, who met the Tongs after the donation and who has become a family friend, comments, “Today, we have a 25-year old who is alive because of Hunter’s donation. It’s unusual to have a meeting like this happen so many years after the donation. I have facilitated meetings as soon as three months after the death of a donor. The meetings usually take place after a year and usually before five.”

Rodney Tong recalls the week, “We gave Casey a real Eastern Shore experience, taking him sailing for the first time at the Chesapeake Maritime Museum and he loved it. He also rowed with Chloe’s rowing club, the Eastern Shore Community Rowers.”

The Artzers stayed next door at the house belonging to a friend of the Tongs. The house, located on the water, had a pool and provided the perfect respite for their week-long visit. The Tongs hosted a build-your-own Taco Night and also made crabs and rockfish plentiful during the Artzers’ stay.Rodney adds, “Casey reveled in the Eastern Shore fare.”

Elizabeth Tong recalls the fun the two families had making dinner the first night. She states, “We are very grateful the family was willing to come across the country to meet us. It was light and easy and we all got along well. The week was about doing fun things with this new family we were getting to know. It was easy and comfortable.”

Pictured is Casey Artzer playing ukulele at the Tong’s musical jam session.

Casey, a history buff, enjoyed a trip with his mother to Washington, DC to take in the monuments and the White House. The Tongs organized a picnic and jam session with local musicians, so Casey could play music. Elizabeth adds, “I think the jam session was his favorite event of the week! He is a talented musician.”

Casey Artzer reflects on his visit with the Tongs, stating ” Oh wow! I can’t wait to go back! I had such a great time hanging out with Rodney, Elizabeth, English and Chloe. Their food was amazing, I loved sailing and getting the chance to row with the Chloe’s row team. I was sore for a while after going with English to Cross Fit! And I can’t thank them enough for the jam session. I feel a deep connection to them all, especially Rodney.”

The Tongs noticed how much Casey and Rodney had in common. Rodney notes, “Casey and I had a lot of similarities. I made a real connection with him. He has a wonderful general knowledge and is a very curious person like I am. He ran errands with me and helped me finish a crossword puzzle. He loves to travel like me and for the rest of his life wants to do as many things as he can.”

English Tong, who originally made the connection with the Artzer family and who was only four years old when Hunter died, states, “It made my brother’s life more real. When it’s been so long, it’s easy to feel far removed from him, but having his heart near me again gave me back his existence.”

“The whole thing was unreal, but amazing,” adds Chloe Tong. “I felt a weird instinct of comfort with Casey. It was so amazing to see how he was enjoying life to the fullest. I felt connected almost right away in a way I never have before.”

Elizabeth Tong, Kathy Artzer, and Rodney Tong.

For Casey’s mother, Kathy Artzer, who says she and the Tongs have always been connected by Hunter’s heart, notes that the two families are now connected by true friendship. She adds, “It’s hard to put in words what this trip meant to me and Casey. I have always kept them in a special place in my heart, but spending time with the whole family was surreal and extraordinary. Rodney, Elizabeth and the girls are all lovely, kind, hilarious and unique, in their own right!”

She reflects, “Giving my family the gift of life 24 years ago was so selfless, during the worst tragedy. It was also wonderful to get the sense of love in the Eastern Shore community, in which the Tongs are a huge part of.”

Elizabeth Tong was a founding member of the Donor Family and Community Advisory Council for the Washington Regional Transplant Community (WRTC). She continues to be a volunteer WRTC Donate Life Ambassador, speaking at Continuing Education Courses at Children’s Hospital in Washington, DC, sharing with the professionals who work with transplant families that it’s ok to be emotional. She comments, “It’s important for these professionals to hear from a donor mom just how meaningful it is to be able to donate a loved one’s organs. It becomes a gift not only for the recipient, but also for the donor.”

Elizabeth adds, “Meeting Casey and his mother was a very meaningful experience – sort of like collateral beauty. We are no longer strangers. To actually meet Casey was a gift. Now our families are joined. There is a piece of Hunter that is still living and it’s doing good.”
Rodney concludes, “Casey is keeping Hunter alive and Hunter is keeping Casey alive.”

The heart is a beautiful thing.

For information about making the decision to be an organ donor, visit Washington Regional Transplant Community’s website at www.beadonor.org. To see a video about the Tong’s story and their reunion with Casey, visit here.

Inside the Sandwich: Muscular Dystrophy Carnivals and Annual Giving By Amelia Blades Steward

During the 1960s and 70s, it wouldn’t be summer if we didn’t hold a Muscular Dystrophy Carnival in my neighborhood near the high school in Easton. A group of about 10 kids from my neighborhood looked forward to these backyard carnivals, to benefit “Jerry’s kids.” The Muscular Dystrophy Carnival kits came in the mail and included tickets, posters and an idea pamphlet to help us raise the funds to help find a cure for the disease. It was an important and noble cause. We had watched for hours the Jerry Lewis Telethons on the television and wanted to do our part to help the kids we saw in the images on the screen. We didn’t have many children in wheelchairs in our school, so it seemed particularly important to reach out to those who were unfortunate enough to be in that situation.

We used each other’s backyards to host the carnivals and rotated from house to house each year, based on the parents who agreed to having their card tables placed in the grass outside and their clotheslines strung with sheets, providing backdrops to the games we played. The O’Briant family’s yard was the most popular one in which to hold the carnivals. We each had aluminum wash tubs to contribute for bobbing for apples or for the floating duck game, where you picked a duck and got a prize based on the number on the bottom of the duck. There were magic shows, fortune-telling booths, and Kool-Aid stands. Everything required a ticket and the tickets cost about five cents each.

We assembled our props and got the carnival set up, borrowing from each other’s households. An alley connected our backyards, so it was easy to get things from one place to another. There was Kool-Aid to be stirred, cookies to be baked, and we had to get out the word so people would come to our carnival. The nearby

Elks Club pool provided the perfect place to share our news. Word spread among the kids when the carnival would take place. Of course, we counted on our mothers coming – they helped fill out our numbers and usually donated extra money.

The carnival started around 11 a.m. and went until 1 p.m., when the pool opened. We didn’t like to miss our pool time. We took our carnival jobs seriously, whether running a game, performing, or selling drinks or food. We knew the more we smiled and encouraged our patrons, the more money we would make. As the day wore on, however, so did we. The sun shone high overhead and the humidity rose. Some of the excitement waned and my friends and I grew weary.

Once we had drunk the Kool-Aid and eaten the cookies, we were ready to pack up the games, return the tables, chairs and props and head to the pool. Before we did, however, it was exciting to see how much money we had raised. If we made over ten dollars, we were excited! We weren’t old enough to have checkbooks, so one of our parents would deposit the money and write a check to be mailed to the Muscular Dystrophy Association. We waited anxiously for the return “thank you” letter in the mail from Jerry. It confirmed our hard work had paid off and showed we did something meaningful with our summer. These backyard carnivals instilled in us a compassion for helping others, something that still rings true today as the annual appeal letters arrive in the mail. While I no longer get that personal letter from Jerry, I still find satisfaction in anticipating the “thank you” after my annual donations are made – a confirmation that we can still make a difference, no matter how small the gift.

 

Easton Business Alliance and For All Seasons Kick Off “No Matter What…You Matter”

On October 6, 2017, from 5 to 8 p.m., For All Seasons will kick off its NO MATTER WHAT . . . YOU MATTER Campaign at the Bartlett Pear at 28 South Harrison Street in Easton. The event will include refreshments and live music provided by the Choptank River Big Band. The event kicks off Mental Health Awareness Week (October 7 – 14, 2017) and the launch of For All Seasons new suicide prevention campaign, NO MATTER WHAT…YOU MATTER. The event is part of the Easton Business Alliance’s First Friday stroll through the local galleries and shops.

The Suicide Prevention Campaign was inspired by the soundtrack of the Tony Award winning Broadway musical, “Dear Evan Hansen.” This past spring, Amy Haines and Richard Marks’ Dock Street Foundation invited 40 representatives from several Talbot County service agencies and educational institutions to board a bus bound for NYC to see Ben Platt and the cast of “Dear Evan Hansen.” Both Haines and Marks had seen the play and felt it would be helpful if shared with our local providers of care. They noted, “We were moved and inspired by the relevance and impact of the show particularly as it incorporated social media’s influence on our society and youth. We appreciate For All Season’s leadership and coordination with all agencies in our community assisting our citizens facing mental and emotional challenges.”

For All Seasons Executive Director Beth Anne Langrell shares that returning from the show she knew that Richard and Amy’s gift could last much more than just one day. She thought it offered an opportunity to reach students and those in the community in the same way that the show reached everyone on the trip that day. It was then that For All Seasons decided to begin a new campaign and start a conversation about suicide prevention.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) every 13 minutes someone dies by suicide. For every suicide, 25 suicide attempts are made. In addition, 1 in 5 Americans live with a mental health condition.

For All Seasons hopes that by discussing the signs and symptoms associated with suicide that it can raise awareness about the issue in our community. Because family and friends are often the first to recognize the warning signs of suicide, they can be critical to helping an individual find treatment with a provider who specializes in diagnosing and treating mental health conditions.

For All Seasons wants people to know that If they think a friend or family member is considering suicide, they should reach out and start a conversation. Talking openly about suicidal thoughts and feelings can save a life. The following are three steps to help people begin the conversation:

Ask directly – “Are you having suicidal thoughts?” – Let them know you care.
Stay and Listen – Let them share their thoughts and feelings.
Get help – Connect them with a friend, family member or crisis hotline at 1-888-407-8018.

Langrell adds, “The launch of our campaign, No Matter What . . . You Matter will create an ongoing dialogue with agencies and educators who attended the musical, as well as others who are interested in joining the conversation about this growing issue in our community. The campaign will include dialogue circles, educational outreach and community events. We want people to know that no matter what, they matter.

The Easton Business Alliance is participating by donating a portion of their sales on specific dates during Mental Health Awareness Week toward For All Seasons Suicide Prevention Campaign. The following Easton businesses are donating on the dates listed:

Bon Mojo – Friday, October 13, Chef and Shower – Saturday, October 14, Colonial Jewelers of Easton – Friday, October 13, Easton Bowl – Friday, October 13, Harrison’s Wines and Liquors – Wednesday, October 11, Kiln Born Creations – Sunday, October 8, Krave – Friday, October 13, La De Da – Friday, October 13, Levity – Thursday, October 12, Lizzie Dee – Wednesday, October 11, Marc | Randall – Friday, October 13, Nestled Baby & Child – Friday, October 13, Out of the Fire- Thursday, October 12, Rise Up Coffee – Tuesday, October 10, Trade Whim – Friday, October 13, and Vintage Books and Fine Arts – Friday, October 13.

Additional sponsors include Acme, Ashley Insurance, Bartlett Pear Inn, Choptank River Big Band, Doc’s Downtown Grille, Easton Business , Easton Pizzeria, Hair of the Dog, Laser Letters, QATV, Talbot Mentors, Tidewater Inn, Ed & Beth Anne Langrell, Diane Flagler, Mary Wittemann & David Urbani, and Westphal Jewelers.

For All Seasons provides Trauma Certified Individual, Family and Group Therapy; Crisis and Advocacy Services for Adult, Child & Adolescent Victims of Sexual Assault, Rape & Trauma; Adult, Child & Adolescent Psychiatry; Substance Use Disorder Services (in collaboration with Corsica River Substance Use Disorder Services).

For All Seasons offers individual and group therapy, general, child and adolescent therapy, marriage and couples counseling, grief counseling, school-based mental health therapy, urgent care services, Rape Crisis Response, Rape Crisis Counseling and Support, 24-Hour English and Spanish Hotlines, and education and outreach programming. For further information about For All Seasons, call 410-822-1018. For the 24-Hour Crisis Hotline, call Toll-Free: 800-310-7273.

BAAM Results: Building Graduates Minds with Knowledge and Dreams

Thirteen years ago, a conversation took place between William T. Hunter, A. James Clark and Derick W. Daly of Easton that asked the question, “What can be done to advance the educational opportunities for African American males in the community?”

Through the efforts of many interested individuals, an afterschool program Building African American Minds (BAAM) was formed in 2005 through a partnership with the Talbot County Public Schools, in particular Easton Elementary School. At a recent event celebrating BAAM’s new building expansion on Jowite Street in Easton, BAAM’s Assistant Coordinator and some of BAAM’s recent graduates spoke about their journeys with the program and what is ahead for each of them and for the program.

Pictured left to right are Xavier Rahim and Jaelon Moaney of Easton with Kendrick Daly, Assistant Coordinator of BAAM. Both Rahim and Moaney are graduates of the BAAM Program and are attending college and pursuing their dreams.

Xavier Rahim of Easton, who graduated from Easton High School in June 2017 started BAAM in first grade, recalls, “I remember the focus back then was on English and Math skills, with pressure on improving the African American scores on the MSA tests. Our scores improved, but the program did much more. It served as a backbone for students. My family encouraged me to stay in the program and I did.”

Xavier states that most of his peers didn’t feel comfortable asking for help about anything academic or social. He comments, “Through BAAM, I found a group of people like me who I could be around socially. It was a support system in school for me too.”

In middle and high school, Xavier had the chance to give back and help elementary students in the BAAM Program at Easton Elementary School. By being a mentor to them, he has realized that he wants to be an English teacher. Xavier is one of three children in his family who have pursued higher education. He will be attending Chesapeake College in the fall, with scholarship support from BAAM, and is hoping to transfer to Liberty College in Lynchburg, VA.

He comments, “Knowledge is about opportunity. It’s like riding a bike.  You have to first know how to do it in order to enjoy the ride. Without knowledge, there is no opportunity to get a career that exemplifies you who can become.”

He adds, “When I helped elementary school students, I saw how much they enjoyed being in BAAM. Realizing that made me realize how much the program is making a difference. I want to try and continue to help with BAAM.”

Another former member of BAAM, Jaelon Moaney, a 20-year old from Easton, is a rising junior at Williams College in Massachusetts. Moaney, a graduate of Easton High School, started BAAM in middle school. His fondest BAAM memory is an experience he had after attending a BAAM middle school assembly. He recalls having to come back to his classroom and talk about the program. It made him feel empowered and appreciate how the program was at work in his life. He comments, “I was amongst my peers and I had to recap the assembly. It was the first time I was comfortable in my own skin amongst my peers. I was proud of what I had to say. It was really a turning point for me. I am now confident speaking in front others.”

He adds that BAAM’s academic and social support has helped him tremendously, stating, “It’s choice rather than chance that will determine your destiny. I think for me, BAAM is a little of both. BAAM gave me choices as I started to mature. It invests in each student and the program teaches kids how to inwardly affirm their beliefs.”

BAAM has provided Moaney with a 4-year $4,000 book scholarship through the Mid-Shore Community Foundation. He is currently attending Williams College and is studying political science with a minor in African Studies. His personal dream is to come back to Maryland one day and run for political office.

He comments, “Because I was not from a nuclear family, I definitely believe in a village raising a child. When I got the book scholarship from BAAM, I understood about giving back. I am now running an afterschool literacy club in the public schools in Massachusetts.”

He adds, “Knowledge is power. The knowledge I gain is a force. BAAM has provided the curiosity giving me the acceleration to learn. My hope for students in the BAAM Program is that they assemble a network of people to support them and their dreams. Just imagine what it will be when kids feel it and internalize it and understand it.”

Kendrick Daly, BAAM’s Assistant Coordinator and an Easton High School graduate, got involved with BAAM after completing a degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Maryland at College Park. Daly was in high school when his parents Derick and Dina Daly founded BAAM. He never thought he would be back in Easton after college involved with the program himself.

After college, Daly, age 24 years old, decided to focus on a patentable invention he was working on. At that time, his father asked if he could help out at BAAM for a couple of hours each day. After seeing the positive effect he had on the BAAM students, he decided that his real love was teaching. He then got a job teaching Computer Science at Easton and St. Michaels High Schools.

He states, “I had been associated with a STEM afterschool program for the gifted and talented while in college and realized through that experience that I had more to offer. It was my decision to come back to Easton and teach here. I like the impact I am having on these kids.”

After his first full year with BAAM, Daly was tasked with revamping BAAM’s middle school program. That year he had 12 middle school students. Unfortunately, attendance fell off because the middle school students had problems sharing space with the elementary school students. He says, “They need a place to go where they wouldn’t be bothered and could do what they want to do with their friends.”

In year three, BAAM got its new building on Jowite Street in Easton and the middle school students got their own space, while the elementary students continued meeting across the street at Easton Elementary School. Looking to the future, Daly is excited about BAAM’s plans for its new building to be built next door which will accommodate elementary, middle and high school students.

He reflects on Xavier and Jaelon’s public speaking at the recent BAAM celebration, commenting, “Public speaking is a large part of BAAM’s programming. Kids start out simply by telling how their day went in a circle. Pretty soon, they are sharing the quote of the day with the whole group and competing for the opportunity to do that. This eventually translates to confidence and their ability to speak publicly at events like the one we just had.”

He adds, “Through BAAM, you learn how to learn. Kids learn the problem-solving process and strategies they can apply to the rest of their lives, such as navigating roadblocks. BAAM teaches kids to navigate the world.”

Xavier Rahim states, “I am excited for the start of a big growth this is occurring for BAAM and the great opportunities ahead. The community is recognizing the impact of the program and I am excited to see how much further it can go.”

Plans are currently underway for BAAM to build a state-of-the-art facility on the parking lot located on Jowite Street adjacent to their current building at 31 Jowite Street. The new building will be a multipurpose building that will include classrooms, a gymnasium, meeting/conference space, a kitchen and office space to accommodate BAAM’s program staff.

According to Derick Daly, President of BAAM, “Our goal has always been to give our students and families access to services that have been lacking in the community, so that they can thrive and be successful in attaining a brighter future. This next step is to provide the students a place of their own. A place they can claim and be proud of. A place where they are safe and can be themselves. Through this new building, we will be able to continue to expand our services in the community.”

For further information about BAAM or about donating to BAAM’s current Building Campaign, contact Executive Director Debbi Short at 410-714-3838.

 

The Heart of It by Amelia Blades Steward

Seven years ago, in the summer of 2010, English Tong was driving home from college in Arizona to Maryland’s Eastern Shore. She always tried to stay with friends and family whenever she could while road tripping. She wanted to split the drive into at least two days so she asked her parents if they knew anyone between Colorado and Maryland. English’s father had a suggestion, but not one she could have imagined.

Pictured left to right are the Tong children: Hunter Tong, Chloe Tong, and English Tong

Seventeen years earlier, English, her sister Chloe, and her parents, Rodney and Elizabeth Tong of Royal Oak, lost their brother and son, Hunter Tong, age two and one half, to an unexpected death. Hunter’s parents chose to donate Hunter’s organs. English’s father was suggesting that English stop in Topeka, Kansas on her way home and meet the family whose son received Hunter’s heart.

In honor of the 24th anniversary of her brother’s death, English wanted to tell the story of her meeting the young man who got her brother’s heart– Casey Artzer. She writes in her blog entry of March 9, 2017 for Sniglet Writings, “This is not a story of how my brother died, but of the life he brought after his death. I can only imagine how difficult it would have been for my parents to not only decide to donate his heart, but continue contact with the recipient’s family still to this day.”

Once English’s blog was published, Casey and his mother, read it and discussed it. Casey said he was ready to meet the whole family and reached out to them to set up a meeting this June at the Tong’s home.

Pictured is a painting of Hunter’s shoes done by artists Wendy Van Nest.

Elizabeth Tong states, “For me, meeting Casey has to be emotionally assimilated, it has even affected me physically. We received letters from each of Casey’s parents on the first anniversary of Hunter’s death, but I was unable to respond to them for seven years. After that, we have kept in touch at Christmas time through Christmas cards and notes, but we haven’t really talked.”

The Tong’s story begins on the night of Rodney Tong’s 40th birthday party in 1993. Hunter played long and hard with all the children in attendance at the birthday party. After Hunter woke up at 7 a.m. the next morning a little fussy, Rodney recalls rocking him back to sleep. At mid-morning, Elizabeth decided to wake him up and he was limp in her arms. Once at Memorial Hospital in Easton, the decision was made to fly him to Children’s Hospital in Washington, DC where Hunter was placed in intensive care. At this point, Rodney and Elizabeth both knew Hunter’s condition was serious, but they didn’t know what was wrong.

Rodney recalls, “On Sunday his brain scan was normal, but doctors were treating him for seizures and trying to figure the cause of the problem. Monday, the doctors discovered that Hunter’s brain was swelling and things had turned for the worse. At that point, the doctors told us that the damage to Hunter’s brain would most likely be fatal.”

Pictured is a painting by Nancy Tankersley of Elizabeth Tong with Hunter.

Elizabeth desperately clung to the words “most likely,” but not for long as the doctor in attendance that afternoon only shook his head and looked away when she tried to convince him that it was only “most likely,” in other words not fatal yet, leaving her the slightest glimmer of hope. Elizabeth remembers, “I can only assume, that was their way of gently giving us the real news, that Hunter was dying and there was nothing that could be done.”

At that point, shock took over, the kind of shock that consumes a person facing the worst kind of news. Elizabeth likens it to a time release capsule, allowing reality in only so often and only in amounts one can take. This shock allowed Elizabeth and Rodney to put one foot in front of the other and later to broach the subject of organ donation. As soon as it was raised, the wheels of donation were immediately set into motion.

The family had to wait from Monday through Wednesday for the drugs to get out of Hunter’s system in order for the doctors to pronounce him dead. This gave English and other family members and friends time to come to Washington to say good-bye. The doctors never were able to tell the Tongs the cause of Hunter’s death.

When asked whether she needed a medical explanation for what caused Hunter’s death, Elizabeth comments about her son, “I don’t need a name for what happened to Hunter. Hunter came and did what he was supposed to do and left us very gently.” She adds thoughtfully, “It’s been a good thing to transplant his organs – it’s something beneficial coming out of something so horrific. A piece of him went on.”

On March 10, 1993, Hunter Tong died. The next day, Casey Artzer from Kansas, got a new heart.

Lisa Colaianni, Donor Family Advocate with The Washington Regional Transplant Community, who met the Tongs after the donation and who has become a family friend, comments, “I can’t imagine trying to think of others while going through such a tragedy as the Tongs experienced. Twenty-one people die every day needing an organ transplant. They gave the ultimate gift of life to another boy and that provided them with hope in their despair. Today, we have a 25-year old who is alive because of Hunter’s donation.”

Pictured is Hunter doing what he loved to do most, snuggling with his sister Chloe

For sisters Chloe and English, the memories are scant of their brother Hunter. English can only remember bits and pieces of Hunter, so for her, Casey makes him real. Family videos of Hunter following English around and mimicking her actions prove the special bond they had. Chloe was only four months old when Hunter died. According to Elizabeth, however, Chloe and Hunter had a special connection as well. He proudly announced to everyone who called, “new baby,” referring to his new little sister. He constantly wanted to be next to her and touching her.
Chloe comments, “I had questions about Hunter as I grew up. I identified with qualities of him as I grew up, always trying to help my dad do things a boy would do because he had lost a son.”

Rodney recalls the rich relationship he had with his son, if only for a short time. He states, “I was able to spend quality time with him because I was doing carpentry work at the time. He loved to be with me on jobs. He had work boots to wear when he went with me. I have a memory of building a railing on our steps and Hunter figured out at age two what screws went into what holes. He would pick up tools and ask what they were.”

He adds, “He loved mechanical things – cars, back hoes, and mechanic shops. He loved being with me when I was doing things and adored being with my father, who was a builder by trade.

He made toys for Hunter out of scraps of wood and fixed things.”
Elizabeth recalls Hunter as being very attached to family and not wanting to leave his mom to go to preschool. She states, “He would always say about doing new things, ‘When mine gets older.’”

English writes in her blog about meeting Casey,

“The family asked me to meet them at his high school, where he would be performing in his school band, playing the saxophone. I remember being really picky about what I wore (a striped grey and green sweater, black skinny jeans) and trying really hard to focus on my driving over there. I walked into an empty entrance way to the school, more nervous than I had ever been in my life. Having no idea where I was supposed to go, I started to panic a bit, when a short, blonde, friendly face came racing up to me, wrapping her arms around me. His mother had been waiting for my arrival outside of the auditorium, and all of a sudden I was surrounded with so many enthusiastic greetings and smiles and hugs from his older sister and father.

Pictured is a painting by Tankersley of Rodney Tong with Hunter.

The first time I ever saw, in person, the man carrying my brother’s heart, was on that stage with a saxophone. If I remember correctly, he performed last, with a large group of other seniors.

After the show, we moved out into the lobby, waiting for him, and his younger sister, to join us. So many people approached and introduced themselves to me, commenting on how amazing this was and that I needed a camera crew following me. All I could think about was how I was going to react to shaking his hand, looking him in the eye, and hearing his voice. The poor guy was probably more overwhelmed than I, so I tried not to scare him by bursting into tears or wrapping my arms around him too tightly. He was just so sweet, soft, and obviously nervous, for good reason.

Once finished, the family took me to dinner. There were quite a few people with us, so it was a large group. I remember eating some kind of chicken wrap and stumbling over questions I had for him about his life and interests. One thing I definitely remember is never wanting the night to end, as it had given me a high I had never felt before, nor since.”

While the family members’ reactions have each been different, each family member is approaching the June 13 meeting of Casey with great anticipation. The week Casey and his family are here, the Tongs are planning a musical gathering with friends because of Casey’s own musical interests. English recalls her memory of Casey, stating, “Casey is a quiet and reserved person.

He is into alternative things like our family – a more liberal person, I think, and one who thinks outside of the box.”

Elizabeth adds, “I have thought about a bit of our son coming home. I haven’t wrapped my head around that yet. All of us want it to be as gentle and natural as possible for Casey. We want him to get to know us and for our meeting to be as organic as possible.”

For Chloe, who perhaps knew Hunter the least, but who had a special bond with her brother, comments, “I have always wanted to meet Casey. I was angry I hadn’t met him sooner. It’s so cool that it is such a major organ that was transplanted from my brother.”

Rodney tries to grasp the upcoming meeting, stating “Our son is dead but he’s not – his major organ is still beating. I want to hear his heartbeat when I meet Casey. I want to put my ear next to his heart.”

Lisa states, “It is highly unusual to have a meeting between a donor family and a recipient 24 years later. Most meetings like this happen within the first five years of the transplant.” She adds, “What I love about this story is the sibling side of it, which is not told that often. The fact that English met the recipient and then wrote the blog, which went everywhere, and ultimately reached the family, is very unique.” She adds, “The Tongs understood from the very beginning the importance of telling their story so that others may register to become donors.”

At the end of her blog, English writes, “Oh, and one last little detail, the one I tend to leave out and only recently revealed to my parents. The last song he and his band played that night on the stage where I first saw him? My Heart Will Go On by Celine Dion.”

To read English Tong’s blog, visit http://snigletwritings.blogspot.com/2017/03/the-tornado-going-on-outside.html?spref=fb. For information about making the decision to be an organ donor, visit Washington Regional Transplant Community’s website at www.beadonor.org.

Inside the Sandwich: Easter Baskets to Camp Tee Shirts By Amelia Blades Steward

I never have transitioned from one season to the next on time. My friends laugh about the year the Christmas tree stayed up until Valentine’s Day (it was real, not artificial) and they had to practically do an intervention to get me to take it down. This year, I didn’t even get my Easter decorations out. The snowman on the sideboard got taken down in early April and replaced by two Beatrix Potter figurines and a small basket of Easter eggs that I got for my birthday in March.

It is how I have approached the “things” in my life too. Not always being ready to part with the memories attached to the items I have collected over the years. This week, however, that sentimental streak paid off when I found an old camp tee shirt and jacket that I wore at age 14 while attending Wye Institute, a camp held at Aspen institute in Queenstown, MD in the 1970s and 80s. I looked for the camp clothing because Aspen is doing a documentary on Arthur Houghton and Wye Institute and had called me about being interviewed as a camper. Houghton, the president of Steuben Glass in New York, had founded the Wye Institute camp for gifted and talented adolescents from rural areas to expand their intellectual and creative minds. I viewed it as perfect timing, as did Aspen, when I brought the tee shirt and jacket to the documentary taping.

The green and white striped camp-issued cotton tee shirt brought me back to a time and place in my life when the ground shifted and something changed in me, something that changed my view of the world. It was the summer of 1974 when I attended the month-long camp at Wye Institute with other 8th graders from Maryland’s Eastern Shore and New York’s Finger Lakes region. We would be attending high school in the fall. We all wore the same camp uniforms. The only time we didn’t wear our camp clothes were when we went to bed each night and could wear our own pajamas. My bunk-mates and I talked late into the night about world peace, women’s lib and what we were going to do with our lives.

As campers we studied and discussed classic literature, film and theater, learning about how these things have shaped our country’s foundation. We explored art, music, creative writing, and the environment – learning how to sail on the Wye River and attending our first theater production of the play “Godspell” in Washington, DC. We even participated in social experiments. One experiment had half the group paint their faces in wild colors and shop in nearby Centreville, while the other half of the group without the painted faces shopped in the same shops. I was in the group with the painted faces and we were run out of the shops we went in.

At Wye Institute I realized that I wanted to be a writer. For the first time, I participated in a creative writing class and learned the power of the pen. The camp showed me that I could illicit a reaction from the words that I wrote. My peers responded to the words and that was powerful. It was a summer when we all learned we had opinions and that our voices could be heard.

We had debates and studied rhetoric. We even put on the musical, “The Fantasticks,” for our parents when they came to visit us mid-month. It was the first time many of us had been away from home and from our parents for this length of time. After leaving camp that summer, I remember how different I felt when I got home. I had been transformed somehow and knew that I would approach high school in a new anticipatory way.

Now, as I think about summer approaching, I wonder if my own college-aged son will one day remember working as a camp counselor, experiencing wet sleeping bags from summer thunderstorms, chiggers and poison ivy, lost bathing suits, glorious camp productions, and the tears of campers saying good-bye to new friends. While memories like these linger for all of us, we are forced to move ahead to the next chapter of our lives. Ready or not, the season is changing. I just need to find where I put that box of Easter decorations before Memorial Day arrives.

 

Gilbert Byron Day to Celebrate the Chesapeake Bay

Local author and poet Gilbert and his wife Edna Byron are pictured here with the original one room cabin at Old House Cove near St. Michaels in August 1942. This year, the annual birthday celebration in Gilbert Byron’s honor will be held on July 9 from 1 to 3 p.m. at Pickering Creek Audubon Center in Easton where the cabin is now located. Friends will gather to do readings and share stories about Byron, who lived from 1903 to 1991.

Local author and poet Gilbert and his wife Edna Byron are pictured here with the original one room cabin at Old House Cove near St. Michaels in August 1942. This year, the annual birthday celebration in Gilbert Byron’s honor will be held on July 9 from 1 to 3 p.m. at Pickering Creek Audubon Center in Easton where the cabin is now located. Friends will gather to do readings and share stories about Byron, who lived from 1903 to 1991.

According to Jacques “Jack” T. Baker, Jr., who wrote the book, “Gilbert Byron: A Life Worth Examining,” local author and poet Gilbert Byron had much in common with the writer Henry Thoreau. Known as “The Chesapeake Thoreau,” not only did Byron live in a house on a wooded cove, delighting in the simple life, but he also shared a birthday with the acclaimed writer – the two were born on July 12. This year, the annual birthday celebration in Gilbert Byron’s honor will be held on July 9 from 1 to 3 p.m. at Pickering Creek Audubon Center in Easton. Friends will gather to do readings and share stories about Byron, who lived from 1903 to 1991.

In addition to tours of the Gilbert Byron House, Jack Baker of the Gilbert Byron Society will provide a brief talk on the significance of Gilbert’s life, particularly in how he has preserved the culture of the Eastern Shore’s native waterman culture in his writing. Jack Baker comments, “Gilbert always said that if he didn’t think it was worthwhile, he wouldn’t have done it. That includes taking Thoreau’s philosophy to heart and living a simple minimalist life.”

There will be a formal poetry reading with guest readers including: Jim Dawson of Unicorn Bookshop; Nancy Andrew of Habitat for Humanity; Dave Harper, Associate Professor of English, at Chesapeake College; and Kelley Malone, retired Easton Town Council member, poet and friend of Gilbert Byron. There will be a showing of a DVD about Byron’s life and a period for questions and answers. Refreshments will be served.

This coming fall, the Gilbert Byron Society will also sponsor the First Annual Gilbert Byron Poetry Contest for middle school students from Talbot County. The contest’s purpose is to keep alive Gilbert’s passion for teaching poetry to children as a visiting poet in many Maryland public schools. Further information will be forthcoming.

For further information about the event, visit gilbertbyron.org or email Jack Baker at airmail4@gilbertbyron.org.

The Gilbert Byron Society is a nonprofit organization working through the Mid-Shore Community Foundation. Individuals interested in making a donation to the Society or contributing to the cash prizes for the upcoming Poetry Contest can visit mscf.org or call 410-820-8175. Donations may also be sent to The Gilbert Byron Society, c/o The Mid-Shore Community Foundation, 102 East Dover Street, Easton, MD 21601.

Recovery: A Mother Redefines Her Daughter’s Memory

It starts like any other love story.  For Valerie and Rick Albee of Easton, their daughter, Mariah Albee, was the apple of their eye. Their only child, they raised Mariah with love and support.  Born in Anchorage, Alaska, the family relocated to Severna Park, Maryland when Mariah was three. They enrolled her in Montessori School where she was a high achiever. Her mother, Valerie recalls, “She was very artistic, self-confident, and although shy, she had many friends. It was a happy childhood.”

Pictured left to right are Mariah Albee, Valerie Albee, and Rick Albee. Valerie has established Mariah’s Mission Fund at the Mid-Shore Community Foundation to honor her daughter, Mariah, who lost her life to heroin. The mission of the Fund is to provide resources for worthy organizations that support families who have lost loved ones to drugs and/or alcohol.

Pictured left to right are Mariah Albee, Valerie Albee, and Rick Albee. Valerie has established Mariah’s Mission Fund at the Mid-Shore Community Foundation to honor her daughter, Mariah, who lost her life to heroin. The mission of the Fund is to provide resources for worthy organizations that support families who have lost loved ones to drugs and/or alcohol.

As her interests grew, Mariah competed on the swim team and participated in cheerleading. She took private flute and ballet lessons and by the age of 10, she was the youngest member of the Anne Arundel Community College Concert Band and in the All County Middle/Jr. Band. She also performed with the Ballet Theatre of Annapolis in several Nutcracker productions.

In the middle school years, however, Mariah began to experience bullying by her peers. She went on to attend Severna Park High School and by age 14, she began suffering from anxiety and depression. Her mother recalls the trips to the therapists, who at different times diagnosed Mariah’s behavior as either acting out or Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD).

During high school, Mariah began self-medicating with alcohol and prescription drugs to deal with her anxiety and depression. Even though she was experiencing these conflicting emotions, she still managed to be a cheerleader, football manager, and a member of the Maryland Youth Symphony Flute Choir. She also found time to help the poor and the homeless. Eventually, the debilitating effects of her emotions required her to be homeschooled to complete her senior year. In 2000, she was ultimately diagnosed at Johns Hopkins Hospital with having bipolar disorder.

Although Mariah was capable of acquiring several jobs, she was unable to sustain them due to her emotional conflicts. During this time, Mariah was slipping away.  By 2003 she attended drug rehabilitation for the first time. By this point she was using heroin, prescription drugs and alcohol. The addiction continued through the next five years, with repeated rehabilitation stays. In 2008, she was able to “get clean” and was married in 2009, only to have the marriage dissolve in 2010. During that time, Mariah was happy and worked as a manager for approximately two years. Her employer commented how she was loved by everyone for her organizational skills, her great attitude, her giving personality, and most of all, for her enthusiasm.

By 2012, Mariah had moved home and was again trying to get her life together – attending Anne Arundel Community College to pursue her dream of becoming a nurse. The family took a two-week vacation to visit Valerie’s sister Eileen and her family in Michigan. Everything seemed perfect. Then one week after returning home, the unthinkable happened. On September 7, 2012, Mariah died of a heroin overdose at her parents’ home at the age of 29.

For Valerie and Rick Albee, the effects were devastating. Their only child was gone. Valerie turned to grief counseling to try and deal with her loss and eventually found solace in a bereavement group of parents in Pasadena. The members were like her, having lost children to substance abuse. She recalls, “I wouldn’t be alive today without their counseling help.”

It has been two years since her daughter’s death and Valerie has been searching for meaning in it all.  She comments, “I don’t want drugs to define who Mariah was.  These kids don’t want to be drug addicts.”

In November 2013, the Albees moved to the Eastern Shore for a new start. While living in Easton Village in Easton, Valerie met a group of women who have embraced her and want to get involved in making a difference with the issue of substance abuse on the Eastern Shore.

The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene reported in July 2014 that the number of heroin-related emergency department visits for Marylanders has more than tripled, with 1200 visits in 2013 – up from 871 visits in 2012. Two age groups showed large increases in heroin deaths between 2012 and 2013, one of which was individuals ages 25 to 34 years of age, just like Mariah. The State reported that there has been an 88 percent increase in heroin-related deaths in Maryland since 2011.

Encouraged by her group of friends, Valerie approached the Mid-Shore Community Foundation and established Mariah’s Mission Fund. The purpose of the Fund reads: “Mariah’s Mission Fund has been established to honor our beloved daughter, Mariah, who lost her life to heroin. The mission is to provide resources for worthy organizations that support families who have lost loved ones to drugs and/or alcohol. We will use our struggles and experiences to empower the community through awareness and education.”

Valerie adds, “I recently decided to tell my story to gain support for services to help families struggling with the issue of addiction on the Shore. By establishing the fund at Mid-Shore Community Foundation, I hope to support the development of these services and make them available to the community here.”

Buck Duncan, president, Mid-Shore Community Foundation, states, “We are thrilled that the Albees have decided to start a fund of this kind. It will provide resources to help families in our region who are trying to cope with the stresses of substance abuse and increase awareness of this important community issue.”

Valerie’s friends are helping her fundraise for Mariah’s Mission Fund, meeting monthly to plan fundraising activities. Currently, the group is planning to hold a silent auction in the spring of 2015. Valerie is also working with the bereavement staff at Talbot Hospice Foundation in hopes of creating a support group by next spring on the Eastern Shore to help parents who have lost children to substance abuse.  In the meantime, she is encouraging any parents in need of these supportive services to attend a bereavement group for parents at the Chesapeake Life Center in Pasadena, MD. The group meets on Mondays once a month from 6 to 7:30. For further information on meeting times, call 410-987-2129, ext. 1271.

Sharon Huseman, Executive Director of Talbot Partnership, comments, “I am reminded of how courageous it is for parents to share their experiences like Valerie has after dealing with the pain of losing their child to addiction.  Addiction is like the elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about. Parents often feel a stigma in having a child who is suffering from substance abuse problems.”

Donations to Mariah’s Mission Fund are tax-deductible and can be made by contacting the Mid-Shore Community Foundation at 410.820.8175  or by visitingwww.mscf.org. For further information about helping with the spring silent auction for the Fund, contact Valerie Albee at mariahsmission2014@gmail.com. For parent resources in dealing with teen substance abuse, visit the Talbot County Parent Coalition at parentscoalitionoftalbotpartnership.org.

 

Poem

by Mariah Albee

(Written to her parents while she was in rehab in 2007)

 

When I was little my dreams were so bright.

I never imagined my life wouldn’t be alright.

Like any little girl, I played and went to school.

Taught to always live by the rules.

My mind was filled with dreams and hope.

Unaware of the nightmare of dope.

Somehow, somewhere, my dreams went up in smoke.

With real life I could no longer cope.

With drugs and danger I began to flirt.

After all, who could I hurt?

Whenever there was pain or anger to feel.

It was stopped and stifled with little pills.

Oh, but I made some progress didn’t I?

I found stronger drugs to get me high.

My dreams turned to hallucination.

My world was empty of imagination.

If my visions were to become real

There was always another pill.

Slowly, all my hopes and dreams were destroyed by addict schemes.

My morals and values were tossed aside

As I deserted my hopes and dreams

My childhood lullabies were replaced by bent spoons

I woke to the nightmare of looking through bars

I knew I could no longer reach for the stars

I finally had to face a scary reality

No one could change this situation but me.

I have learned it’s ok to think and feel.

To go through life without the needle

Now I can reach for the stars.

ONE DAY AT A TIME!

(Postscript: Maybe you can understand me a little better now. I love you mom, dad and grandpa! – Mariah)

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Academy Art Museum February Exhibitions Feature Artists with Ties to Eastern Shore

On February 16, 2013, the Academy Art Museum will open three new exhibitions featuring artists with ties to the Eastern Shore. The Art of Greg Mort: Selections from the Hickman Bequest, will be on display February 16 through March 31, 2013.  In 2011, David H. Hickman, an Easton-born, Washington DC resident, generously donated over 30 paintings by Greg Mort to the Museum to make it the largest public repository of the artist’s work. This exhibition, which includes a selection of paintings and drawings, draws from the Hickman gift as well as some preliminary drawings that were donated by Greg Mort to enhance the collection. Greg Mort an internationally acclaimed, self-taught artist hikes the rugged coast of Maine and travels the rural trails of Maryland with his brushes, paints and canvases. Drawing and painting since childhood, Mort’s professional art career star began to rise at an early age with his first museum show at 18. His watercolor, oil and pastel images are in notable collections around the world.

Greg Mort, Lemon Tea, 2004, watercolor, Gift of David H. Hickman, AAM 2011.002.19.

Greg Mort, Lemon Tea, 2004, watercolor, Gift of David H. Hickman, AAM 2011.002.19.

The second exhibition, Contemporary Realists: The Art of David and James Plumb, will be on display February 16 through April 28, 2013. David G. Plumb graduated from the University of Virginia with a BFA (1968). He moved to Talbot County, MD, to teach drawing and painting at the Academy Art Museum, previously known as the Academy of the Arts, while winning top awards in the Annual Juried Show (1970, 1982), exhibiting in the Maryland Biennial, Baltimore Museum (1976, 1978, 1980), and in group shows in New York City. He has been affiliated with the George Ciscle Gallery in Baltimore and Hollis Taggart and David Adamson Galleries in Washington, DC. James Plumb received his BFA from the Philadelphia College of Art and graduated with an MFA from Brooklyn College (1984). He was one of 20 individuals selected from worldwide applications, to attend the prestigious postgraduate studies at the Amsterdam-Maastricht Summer University (2001). James draws on the visual heri­tage of illusion and symbolism of the Old Masters of European painting. He feels that many of the concepts expressed through the visual relationships are just as valid today as they were back then. James Plumb served as curator of the Academy of the Arts in Easton (1978 – 1982). He serves as full professor in studio and art history courses at Chesapeake College. He has been represented by the David Adamson Gallery in DC, the Leslie Levy Fine Arts in Scottsdale, AZ, and had a one-man show at the South Street Gallery in Easton (2011).

David Plumb, Fall Flowers, Oil, 2009, collection of the artist.

David Plumb, Fall Flowers, Oil, 2009, collection of the artist.

 

James Plumb, Floral with Peaches, Grapes and Harvest Figure, Oil, 2010, collection of the artist.

James Plumb, Floral with Peaches, Grapes and Harvest Figure, Oil, 2010, collection of the artist.

 

The third exhibition, Katherine K. Allen Meditation on Nature in Paint and Stitch, will be on display February 16 through March 31, 2013.  Allen loves talking to nature and her colorful artworks bring that conversation visually to life. With a vocabulary of lively gestural marks, abstracted botanical shapes and subtle textural stitching on cloth, Allen brings the outside inside. Her “soft paintings” are steeped in personal experience and the remembered atmosphere of the natural world, evoking landscapes that feel recognizable yet imaginary. In her studio gardens, surrounding woods and nearby wetlands, Allen grows and gathers the botanical materials used in her creative process.  She holds a BFA from the University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ, and an MFA, from Cranbrook Academy of Art, Bloomfield Hills, MI. She worked as a graphic designer, registrar, curator, art instructor and has worked since 1996 as a full-time professional studio artist. Her career has taken her all over the United States. From 1990 to the present, Allen has exhib­ited in solo and group exhibitions from Easton, MD, Pittsburgh, PA, to Stanford, CA. She regularly works on site-specific commissions and has artwork in public and many private collections. For her exhibition at the Academy Art Museum, she specially created a set of The Four Seasons, as well as a large vertical “soft painting” spanning over two floors in the Atrium Gallery. Also included will be the mythological themed Icarus, from her early career, as well as a number of recent fiber creations. She resides in Easton and Florida, with her husband David.

Katherine K. Allen, Autumn Apples, 2001 Acrylic pigments on cotton, Collection of the artist.

Katherine K. Allen, Autumn Apples, 2001 Acrylic pigments on cotton, Collection of the artist.

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Talbot Problem-Solving Court Help Transform Lives

With drug and alcohol issues at the root of many crimes in Talbot County, two and half years ago Judge Bo Earnest of the Talbot County Circuit Court established a unique program called the “Problem-Solving Court.” While there are between 30 and 35 Drug Courts in the State of Maryland, this year-long program has a broader scope in helping address the substance abuse and mental health issues of residents of Talbot County. Most of the participants in the program have been charged with possession of drugs or have related drug charges in Circuit Court. The Problem-Solving Court helps to keep them from falling back into their bad behaviors. According to Judger Earnest, the program is working in transforming lives.

Dewayne Camper of Trappe, a 37-year old father who recently graduated from the Problem-Solving Court, found that he had turned to drugs to deal with his problems.  He comments, “There are rules to follow in life.  We are raised to know these rules, but sometimes our attitudes can get in the way. This program taught me to follow directions in order not to face more serious consequences in my life. I realized I wanted to turn my life around for myself and for my 10-year old daughter.  I needed to be together to be a better father to her.”

Camper credits the Problem-Solving Court with turning his life around.  He comments, “At first I didn’t want to do it. It required doing extra work to prove to them that I was serious.”  He adds, “I soon realized this was a help system and not a court.”

Judge Earnest comments, “The program is designed to help people in these circumstances – making it more of a therapeutic court.  It is very difficult to deal with these addictions. A majority of the people with substance abuse issues have mental health issues as well, so the program determines what each individual needs and includes psychological treatment.”

Participants of the Problem-Solving Court must sign a written contract to be in the program for a minimum of one year. The first step is getting people into a substance abuse treatment program through the Talbot County Addictions Program or Shore Behavioral Health.  This program, which can last from 30 days to one year, requires the participant to submit to random drug testing three times a week. The results are reviewed with the participant in the Problem-Solving Court every two weeks. In addition, they must meet every two weeks to review their progress with Judge Earnest and his team, which includes the State’s Attorney, Public Defender, Division of Parole and Probation, Talbot County Addictions Program, Shore Behavioral Health, Talbot County Detention Center, and Mid-Shore Mental Health Services. Participants must also attend a meeting of either Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous twice a week, perform a minimum of 40 hours of community service with local charities, and write essays to express themselves and their journey. The program also addresses education and employment issues, working to link participants with employment services provided by the Workforce Investment Board and educational offerings.

For Dewayne Camper, Problem-Solving Court gave him the opportunity to attend Chesapeake College where he is studying Human Services.  He hopes to get into counseling one day himself.  He states, “I ignored the help offered to me throughout my life.  I didn’t feel people would understand my problems. Sometimes you just need to talk to someone to deal with your problems.  I have realized that through participating in the program and am totally taking advantage of the help now offered to me.”

Judge Earnest adds that in addition to the Problem-Solving Court, Talbot County is working to establish another groundbreaking court – Re-Entry Court, which assists people returning from jail and prison. While it has been approved by Talbot County, it is awaiting approval by the State of Maryland. He states, “Most of these people, who also have substance abuse and mental health issues are woefully unprepared to return to society from prison. When they come back from prison, the results are entirely predictable with the majority re-arrested and being sent back to prison.”

According to Judge Earnest, the purpose of the Re-Entry Court is to figure out who the good candidates are for rehabilitation – those who are not a public safety threat – and have them serve the last six months of their sentence in the Talbot County Detention Center to prepare them for their return to the community.

He adds, “We are not coddling criminals. Whether we like it or not, these people are coming back into our county.  Some of their problems can’t be treated effectively in prison and there is science-based evidence that we can lower the recidivism rates by doing this.”

The Re-Entry Court will re-acquaint the participants with their families and address their addictions, utilizing such programs as the Fatherhood Program with the Talbot County Detention Center, Mid-Shore Mediation Program, Mid-Shore Mental Health Services, Fresh Start Housing, Talbot County Addictions Program, Shore Behavioral Health, and the Division of Parole and Probation.  The participants will transition into Talbot County’s Problem-Solving Court to continue their transition back into the community.

For Dewayne Camper, Talbot County’s approach is working. He concludes, “The more you do right, the scope of life gets bigger. Other people are watching me now and it helps me stay grounded and to stay on track.  It is not easy when you complete the program, because the issues in our lives don’t go away. It means you still need to keep working to make progress.”

Pictured left to right are Judge Bo Earnest of the Talbot County Circuit Court with Dewayne Camper of Trappe, a 37-year old father who recently graduated from Talbot County’s Problem-Solving Court. Camper credits the Problem-Solving Court with turning his life around.

Pictured left to right are Judge Bo Earnest of the Talbot County Circuit Court with Dewayne Camper of Trappe, a 37-year old father who recently graduated from Talbot County’s Problem-Solving Court. Camper credits the Problem-Solving Court with turning his life around.

 

 

For further information on Talbot County’s Problem-Solving Court, contact the Program at 410-770-6823.

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