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In heartache, Kings Park family tackles addiction

Linda Ventura, center, with her daughter, Jennifer, and son, Andrew, as he selects raffle tickets at the March 28 fundraiser in honor of Thomas Ventura, below. Photos from Linda Ventura

April 10, 2013 | 07:15 PM
A year after her son died from a heroin overdose, Linda Ventura has found new hope in Thomas' Hope Foundation.

Ventura, a Kings Park resident, started the foundation on March 1, raising money to sponsor people in the area who are addicted, want to get clean but do not have the money to do so. Ventura hopes the foundation can open a sober house — a transitional house where people can stay after completing rehab and before rejoining the community — in Kings Park.

"I had the thought in my mind last year to do something about it," Ventura said about creating the foundation, an idea she had after her son died on March 14, 2012. "It took me some time to heal and get through things. So this year we started the foundation."

Thomas' Hope held its first fundraising event on March 28, what would have been her son's 23rd birthday. Even though there was not much time between the creation of the foundation and its first fundraiser, Ventura said there was an outpouring of support from the community.

"They have a heart for this," Ventura said of her community. "Most people do know that there's a problem [of drug addiction]. Education needs to happen. We will accomplish this."

The money the foundation raises will sponsor residents through a program at St. Christopher's Inn, a rehabilitation center located in Garrison.

Ventura started the foundation with the help of her friend, Roseanne Gearhart, another Kings Park resident. The two got to know each other through their children, who attended school together.

"Our goal really is to get out there into the schools and start targeting where these kids are falling off into drugs," Gearhart said. "We want to get involved with schools and see where that drop-off point is."

Ventura and Gearhart also plan on starting educational programs that are more effective than the ones they have had experience with.

"Children do not want to listen to me, or a teacher or a counselor," Ventura said. Drug Abuse Resistance Education "is not effective. They don't even listen to it. It's just a period away from class for them."

Ventura said after a recent visit to St. Christopher's, where she sat down with men from Long Island and discussed what would have been effective for them when in school, she had the idea to bring these men in to talk.

"[The men] felt that if they had spoken to them, to an addict, if they had told them what they were reduced to — stealing from families and the madness that ensued — that would have been effective," Ventura said.

While the foundation is only just over a month old, Ventura said she is confident she and Gearhart will succeed.

"I have a very strong faith," Ventura said. "I will tell you everything happens for a reason. It's what you do with that reason that can make or break you. We can choose to be positive and do something about it, but I'm not one to sit in depression, it serves no purpose."

Anyone who needs assistance or who wants to get involved can either leave a message on the Facebook page Thomas' Hope - A Center for Drug Rehabilitation & Family Counseling or send an email to thomashopecenter@gmail.com. Donations can be mailed to: Thomas' Hope, PO Box 370, Kings Park, NY 11754.

This article has been corrected to include Linda Ventura's name.

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