Pubdate: Sun, 26 Aug 2007
Source: News-Gazette, The (Champaign, IL)
Copyright: 2007 The News-Gazette
Author: Noelle McGee
Bookmark: (Marijuana)
Bookmark: (Cocaine)
Bookmark: (Heroin)


DANVILLE - For several weeks, Betsy Morgenroth went back and forth
over whether she would participate in Saturday's communitywide march
against drugs.

By the night before, the Hoopeston woman knew what she had to

"I needed to be here for him," said Morgenroth, whose 18-year-old son,
John Travis Morgenroth, died from an overdose of Xanax, Valium and
morphine on June 13. "I'd like for something good to come out of his
death. I haven't figured out yet what that's going to be. You just
feel like you have to do something."

About 150 people - most wearing red shirts, symbolizing the blood of
Jesus Christ - marched behind an ambulance and a white hearse along a
route from Danville High School to Lincoln Park. Some sang and carried
signs that said "Fight for the family" and "Nobody is judging you."

When they got to the park's performance center, six men carried a
silver casket to the stage. Pastor Thomas Miller, the event's
organizer, said the casket represented where drugs will eventually
take people who use or sell them.

"We don't want anybody else in Danville to die from drugs," said
Miller, of the New Life Church of Faith in Danville. "We're coming out
from behind our stained-glass windows. We're coming out from behind
our corporate desks ... into the streets to say, 'We're going to take
our city back by standing together ... Today, this is the end of it.'"

Mayor Scott Eisenhauer asked residents to step up and say, "Not in my

"When you see it, report it," said Eisenhauer, who also urged people
to get help for themselves or others who need it. "There is a way to
turn your life around. There are many agencies ... and churches that
can help. We need to do a better job of sharing that."

Some who marched or showed up later at the park talked about the
effect drugs and alcohol have had on the community, even their lives.
They shared stories of how addiction has led to domestic abuse, broken
families, lost jobs, poverty, sickness and hopelessness.

It has also led to crime and a perception that the neighborhoods
aren't safe.

"I think the drugs are getting really bad in Danville," said Kawana
Moore, who went with her daughters, Christina Moore, 9, and Krystal
Love, 8. They live on Grace Street, not far from where three Danville
residents - Rodney Pepper, 30, Ta'Breyon McCullough, 21, and Madisen
Leverenz, 19 - were gunned down in the 1700 block of Main Street in
March. "I'm afraid to let my kids go outside."

For Morgenroth and her family, her son's drug addiction led to the
"ultimate" heartbreak. She said her son was a good student and gifted
athlete and had a loving family, but he started smoking marijuana with
friends at 15.

"That was the door," Morgenroth said, adding her son got hooked on
prescription drugs at 17. "The availability is unbelievable. They
could get anything they wanted."

She said she learned her son's dealer in Hoopeston got his supply from
a dealer in Danville.

"We talked to him so many times and tried to get him help," she said,
adding her son was in drug counseling when he died. "Even though
you're scared of what could happen ... you think lot of kids go
through it, and they make it through. You don't think it will happen
to you."

Judy Tinsley said people who struggle with addictions can break them
with help - and she's proof. Tinsley used to use and sell drugs in the

"I was drawn into it through a boyfriend who sold cocaine and heroin,"
the longtime Danville resident said. "I knew they were evil, but I
didn't know how to stop."

Tinsley was eventually imprisoned for selling cocaine. But she didn't
stop until two men with guns broke into her and her boyfriend's house,
demanding money the boyfriend owed them.

"They kept threatening to kill us," she said. "I prayed to the Lord,
'Lord, if you get me out of this, I will turn my life over to you.' I
kept my word. It's still a struggle sometimes, but I will never live
that lifestyle again." 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake