Substance abuse costs all Oklahomans, not just addicts and their families.
“About $7 billion a year is spent in Oklahoma dealing with the fallout from substance abuse issues,” said Jim Priest, executive director of Fighting Addiction Through Education, Inc. “It affects our economy; it ruins people's lives, and of course it's a killer.
“Hundreds of thousands of people (worldwide) every year, maybe even millions, are killed as a result of it.”
The nonprofit, commonly referred to as FATE, seeks to educate people about the consequences of drug and alcohol abuse, often teaming with famous athletes to reach out to school groups. Former Sooners standout and NFL star Roy Williams, for example, provides a video welcome to visitors to FATE's website.
“Since its inception,” Priest said, “FATE has been a free program to community groups, high schools, grade schools, on up through universities. We don't charge the schools or groups to come out and talk about the substance abuse problem we have in Oklahoma.”
The nonprofit, he said, relies solely on donations. A couple generous benefactors have borne the bulk of the financial burden, but now FATE needs additional help to carry on its work.
The nonprofit is holding its first fundraising “Champions of FATE” dinner on Thursday, Oct. 25. The dinner will be hosted by Williams and former Oklahoma State University quarterback Aso Pogi, who is now a youth minister in the Lawton area.
“We're going to have a great event,” Priest said. “We're going to honor some folks who have done what we hope others will do, which is reach out to help people.”
Individual honorees are Kelly Dyer Fry, The Oklahoman's editor and vice president of news for OPUBCO Communications Group; and David Starkey, who has campaigned to limit access to pseudoephedrine, a precursor to methamphetamine, ever since losing a friend to the drug. Other honorees will be Chesapeake Energy, KFOR/KAUT, OSU, East Central University and Bethany High School.
The event will include live music, dinner, a chocolate candy buffet, a specialty coffee bar, a silent auction and a live auction for items including a men's Rolex watch and a trip for two to the Espy Awards.
The evening begins at 6 p.m. Oct. 25 at the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame, Bud Wilkinson Center, 4040 N Lincoln Blvd.
“We think the issue we're dealing with is the most significant because it has such a cascade effect in so many other areas,” Priest said. “It affects incarceration, child abuse and divorce rates. Health care costs are hit hard by substance abuse problems. … It's not hard to come to the conclusion that if you work on this one issue, you can affect so many others that spring from it.”
Tickets are $100. Table sponsorships begin at $1,250. To buy tickets, go online to events.fate.org. For more information, email Priest at email@example.com.