Pubdate: Thu, 21 May 2009
Source: Nor'wester, The (CN NF)
Copyright: 2009, Transcontinental Media
Author: Matthew Molloy
Page: 8A
Bookmark: (Heroin)
Bookmark: (Youth)


George Chuvalo Implores Kids To Stay Off Drugs And To Love Their Families

George Chuvalo knows a thing or two about battles.

The retired heavyweight Canadian boxer was never knocked down in 93
professional fights between 1956 and 1979. In that time he fought heavy
hitters like George Foreman and Joe Frazier, and arguably the greatest
boxer to ever grace the ring, Muhammad Ali. In fact, Mr. Chuvalo fought
Ali twice, where the Canadian lost both bouts via decision.

Now 71, Mr. Chuvalo continues to fight, but with words rather than fists.
You'll be hard pressed to find a man who's lost so much because of drugs
and the same man that collected a professional boxing record of 73-18-2
was in Conne River last Tuesday to continue to tell his story.

"I speak to young people about drugs and I speak to them because of what
happened to my family," said Mr. Chuvalo. "I speak to the young people
because if I didn't, I would feel that my family died in vain, and I don't
ever want to feel that way."

Mr. Chuvalo lost three sons and a wife as a result of substance abuse.
However, Mr. Chuvalo goes into graphic detail about how his sons and wife
died, how it affected his surviving family members and he even talks about
the times he marched through drug houses and searched the streets to find
his sons. Mr. Chuvalo goes into great detail of how his sons would be
found in feces-ridden clothes, high off of drugs like crack and heroin.

"I lost three sons and my wife. Hopefully my story will help other
people," said Mr. Chuvalo. "As I help other people I help myself. I hope
they'll understand the enormity of loss...I'll never be able to see so
many of my immediate family ever again."

Mr. Chuvalo doesn't need flash cards or a speech to get through his
presentation. In fact, he never once used notes. Whether he's talking
about his wife committing suicide three days after he buried a son, or the
time two of his sons filled his trunk with stolen drugs from a pharmacy,
Mr. Chuvalo speaks from the heart - and it shows.

"When you're talking about episodes in your life that are so vivid, it
just comes out," said the 71-year-old. "I don't even have to think about
the words - they're always there."

Although Mr. Chuvalo's stories are extremely personal and emotional, he
showed a video entitled Still Standing. The video details Mr. Chuvalo's
boxing career and the battle his family went through. While at the head
table, Mr. Chuvalo often wiped the tears away as he watched pictures of
his now deceased sons and wife appear on a projection screen.

"It reminds me how much I loved my sons and my wife, and how much I miss
them," said Mr. Chuvalo of watching the video. "It's bittersweet because
although it's a hard video to watch, it's also nice."

Mr. Chuvalo can tell stories that will leave you broken hearted. While
making the same presentation in other schools throughout the years, Mr.
Chuvalo said he's seen students breakdown and promise to never sell drugs
again. Of all the stories he tells, of all the heartache he's gone
through, Mr. Chuvalo said he would tell the story of losing his first
child if he had only five minutes to spend with a group of drug dealers or

"I could tell the story of my son losing his mind in prison...but the
worst is when someone dies," said Mr. Chuvalo. "I think the worst is
telling the story of how my son Jessie died and talking about the pain of
losing my first child. The pain of losing my first child is the worst pain
I've ever felt. I've lost my wife and two other children because of drugs,
but the worst feeling I've ever felt is losing my first child."
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