CHESTERTOWN — Kent County is going purple this month, drawing attention to the substance abuse epidemic that has the nation in its grip.

The campaign to stand against illicit drugs is ongoing through the month of September, and received a boost from the Kent County Commissioners on Tuesday night when they signed a proclamation.

"Whereas Kent Goes Purple encourages everyone to get the facts, get involved, get talking and join the movement," Tom Mason, president, read from the commissioners' proclamation.

The commissioners “encourage all citizens to recognize that many of our community members are struggling with addiction. We also call upon government agencies — public and private institutions, businesses and schools in Kent County — to recommit our community to increase awareness and understanding."

This is the second year for Kent Goes Purple, with buildings throughout the county bathed in purple lights and school children wearing purple T-shirts and wristbands.

In addition to raising awareness of opioid abuse, “going purple” has messages of prevention and recovery.

Special events this year are a Purple Jamboree at Worton Park from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 14 and conversations with Tony Hoffman, a nationally renowned speaker, on Monday, Sept. 23 in Kent County schools and Washington College.

Andy Meehan and Kirk Helfenbein of the Chestertown Rotary Club and Sheriff John Price and Lt. Dennis Hickman of the Kent County Sheriff's Office are the frontmen for Kent Goes Purple. Annette Duckery of the Kent County Health Department has joined the leadership team.

The health department and Kent County Public Schools have played huge roles this year, successfully writing several grants that have been channeled toward Kent Goes Purple, Meehan said.

With a year of experience, the launch of the 2019 Kent Goes Purple has gone off “without a hitch,” he said.

The start-up was a 5K Color Run on Aug. 24 that drew more than 120 runners and walkers.

Since Sept. 1, the Kent County Courthouse in Chestertown has been illuminated at night with purple floodlights. Emmanuel Episcopal Church and businesses in downtown Chestertown also are showing their purple pride — a trend that is being seen countywide.

Meehan said the emphasis this year is toward interaction with students and the community.

The T-shirt giveaway has been expanded. Every Kent County Public Schools student and all fall athletes at Washington College will receive a purple shirt featuring the college's flying goose logo on the front and the list of sponsors at the purple level ($1,000 or more) on the back. About 2,300 shirts have been ordered and BayCraft Printing in Rock Hall is expected to have them ready by mid-September.

The Jamboree on Sept. 14 has a family focus. There will be live music, face painting, a rock wall/slide inflatable, team tug of war, a bounce house, hot dogs and more — all at no cost.

Hoffman will talk about addiction, recovery, prevention and choices in three separate appearances: to a schoolwide assembly at Kent County High School, to the seventh- and eighth-graders at Kent County Middle School and a luncheon in Hynson Lounge of Washington College, where the seating is limited.

Hoffman, once a top-ranked BMX amateur, had his life and career spiral out of control due to addiction to pain pills and heroin. He spent two years in prison for armed robbery and home invasion.

Sober since 2007, he has dedicated his life to bringing awareness about the dangers of prescription pills and opioids.

He is the founder and director of The Freewheel Project, a nonprofit that mentors thousands of youth through action sports like BMX and skateboarding and after-school programs. The Freewheel Project focuses on teaching kids leadership skills and making healthy life choices, including substance abuse prevention.

Learn more about Hoffman at tonyhoffmanspeaks.com.

In 2017, Talbot was the first county on the Eastern Shore to “go purple,” the official color representing overdose awareness. Kent, Queen Anne’s, Caroline and Dorchester followed in 2018.

"We're trying to build on last year's success and keep it moving forward," Sheriff Price said.

The Color Run for 2020 will be held Sunday, Sept. 13 at Wilmer Park, Chestertown.

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