Pubdate: 17 Nov, 1999
Source: Kamloops Daily News (CN BC)
Copyright: 1999 Kamloops Daily News
Contact:  393 Seymour Street, Kamloops, B.C. V2C 6P6
Fax: (250) 372-0823


The man tagged in the fight business as the one "always left standing" has 
been knocked down a few times by life outside the ring.

Former Canadian heavyweight boxing champion George Chuvalo spoke to more 
than 1,000 people in Kamloops and Logan Lake Monday as part of a special 
week to educate youngsters about how drug abuse begins. Numerous tragedies 
in his family caused by drug abuse led to his role as a motivational 
speaker for young people.

Drawing on his successes in the boxing ring and the personal tragedies he 
has had to live through, Chuvalo pleaded with young adults (and quite a few 
older adults at the evening show) to love one another and to learn to 
respect each other and themselves.

"When it comes to making those hard decisions in high school, it's easier 
to say no if you're rooted in a loving family, if you've learned to respect 
yourself," he said.

A 28-minute 5th Estate report shown on a large screen told of the death of 
Chuvalo's two sons and their mother. The former boxer then took the stage 
himself, telling of the death of a third son since the video was made in 
1995. All three boys were heroin addicts, two died with syringes stuck in 
their arms, another took his own life after a drug overdose. Chuvalo's wife 
death was a result of an overdose of pills, taken four days after the 
second boy's funeral.

"When I sit here and tell you these terrible stories of my sons, my dead 
sons, it makes me sick to my stomach. What drugs did to them makes me sick."

He has another son and a daughter still alive, and has since married again, 
ironically to a nurse he meet in one of the hundreds of visits he made to 
emergency hospitals with his sons. "My son Stephen overdosed 15 times in 
two months. Sometimes I thought there had to be a reason they kept him 
alive, some greater purpose to his life," Chuvalo said of the last of his 
sons to die.

As she left the theatre with her children, ages eight and 10, Doreen Manuel 
said it's never too early to let your kids understand how drugs mess up 
your life.

"They're young but they heard what he had to say."

Manuel said she was moved to tears when Chuvalo first started speaking.

"The message came directly from his heart. You could see and feel his grief 
when he talked about standing on the side listening to his son's voice on 
the video."

She agreed with one of Chuvalo's points in his presentation that those 
teenagers who give in to cigarettes will find it easier to move on to other 
habits such as alcohol, pot and eventually heroin or coke. Chuvalo said 
there are many important decisions to be made when a person is in high 
school. They can decide to be a doctor, a lawyer, a sports celebrity, or 
they can take the steps that lead downward.

"It's a crucial time for making decisions ... I want you to know once a 
drug addict, always a drug addict. My sons, I know they couldn't help 
themselves ... that drug was too powerful."

The presentation was arranged by a number of organizations in Kamloops that 
deal with drug and alcohol prevention and treatment programs, including the 
Phoenix Centre, the Raven Program and School District 73. 
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