Chad Jones

Guest Columnist Chad Jones

More than 200 attended Dani’s Fight

 

By Chad Jones

 

In April of this year I began a journey to stage Dani’s Fight, a wrestling event that would raise awareness and funds to combat the opioid crisis. It sprang from an idea I had a few days after Aug. 10, 2017. That was the day my first cousin, Danielle “Dani” Ashe, passed away from a fentanyl-laced heroin overdose.

At the time, living in Fort Worth, Texas made this show a near impossibility from a logistical standpoint. In April I found myself permanently relocated home to Sylva and in a position to make a benefit wrestling show happen, so I set out to do just that.

The idea behind this show was to raise awareness with the youth in our community about the opioid/drug crisis that has become a plague on not only this county but this state and the country as a whole. I set out to reach as many kids as I could, with the idea if I could get one kid’s attention and get them to “just say no” to drugs, that any effort I made either physically, emotionally or financially was an effort well spent.

What I didn’t realize was how deep this problem really goes.

The real eye-opener for me took place in June. One afternoon I sat at Monteith Park with Ashley Taylor and Beth Parris to discuss their upcoming “Stuff the Bus” music festival in Dillsboro and talk about ways that we could help one another promote our respective events. While sitting there talking we watched what was likely three drug deals take place in the span of an hour, all involving the same pickup truck. Then to beat it all, there were used syringes in the mulch of the kids’ playground!

As the days turned into weeks and we got closer and closer to the date of the show, this event became more than just a wrestling show for me. In many ways it was a way to get closure on the grief that had sat on my heart since the morning my cousin Bryttni called me to tell me Dani had overdosed the night before.

As I spent each day working on this, I learned a lot about myself and I learned a lot about the youth of Jackson County. Some of these kids, well honestly a great number of them, have seen and dealt with things drug-wise they shouldn’t have ever seen at their age, or at any age for that matter.

One of the moments that sticks out the hardest for me came after speaking at the Jackson County School of Alternatives. Principal Angela Lunsford was absolutely amazing and extremely gracious in giving me a half hour with grades 7-12. After speaking to them, she asked me if I would stay and just talk with any kids who wanted to talk until their bus came, a request I was more than happy to oblige.

A young man came up to me close to the end of this time and told me a story about watching his father overdose on heroin in front of him. This young man and all the kids like him are the reason I wanted to run the show and spread this message.

That was the purpose and reason behind Dani’s Fight ... I wanted to tell all these kids all the things I wish I had told Dani while she was still here to hear them.

From early April until we held Dani’s Fight at the Sylva National Guard Armory on Sept. 21, I had the pleasure of working with some very amazing people –  Kim Elliott, Jake Buchanan and Cora Fields of Jackson County Public Schools, Sheriff Chip Hall and the county’s D.A.R.E. Officer, Sgt. Johnny Hollifield, who proved to be an invaluable asset for me as he took me from school to school to speak to his D.A.R.E. classes and tell the youth of Jackson County about not only Ashe’s story but my own story as well.

With the help of the people listed above as well as numerous sponsors from businesses within Jackson, Macon and Swain counties, we saw 220-plus people attend Dani’s Fight. I consider this show to be a huge success, and I believe we reached a good number of the kids we set out to reach.

Now, it is my belief that it is time for us as members of this community to stand together and in one voice say, “enough is enough” because one child lost to this epidemic is one child too many.

Chad Jones was born and raised in Sylva. After graduating from Victory Christian School in 1994, he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps, serving on active duty for just over nine years. Jones has wrestled under the name “Outlaw” Randy Wayne for 14 years.