SOUTH GLENS FALLS — After 28 hours of dedication and dancing, the South High Marathon Dance raised $831,191.15 in support of 42 recipients — beating last year’s total of $823,614.91.
“We want to make sure to help as many as possible,” said senior Morgan Smith, SHMD student chairwoman on Saturday afternoon.
The 41st Annual South High Marathon Dance kicked off in the high school’s gym on Friday at 7 p.m., and the 815 student dancers danced their last dance just before the SHMD committee unveiled this year’s total.
Since the first marathon dance at the South Glens Falls High School raised $1,500, last night’s funds bring the total raised since 1978 to over $6 million.
At about 9 p.m. Saturday night, many of the recipients came forward to express their deepest appreciation to the dancers for their generosity, spirit and heart.
And it is the heart of the dancers and the community that keeps this event going from year to year.
With a goal of helping as many individuals and community organizations as possible each year, selecting recipients is not an easy task. Among those selected this year are 14 area organizations like the “Woofs for Warriors,” that pairs veterans suffering from post traumatic stress disorder with rescue dogs.
An individual recipient who was suddenly diagnosed with epilepsy will now be able to get a service dog because of the SHMD.
“Thanks, Bulldogs, for giving me my dog,” he said on Saturday night.
And as each recipient shared a bit of their story and their deeply-felt gratitude with a packed gym of dancers and onlookers, those watching the livestream of events tweeted that it brought them to tears.
“Pass the tissues, the recipients are on stage,” said one Twitter user.
“Listening to recipients speak & watching the utter compassion on the faces of our students as they realize the impacts they have made with wide open hearts,” said another.
And even U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik tweeted: “Wouldn’t miss my favorite #NY21 event of every year #SHMD18 @shmdnow !!!”
As the big night drew closer to the final total, South High Principal Peter Mody called for last-minute donations to push the amount raised higher.
“You’re not only raising money, you’re raising hope,” he said.
HUDSON FALLS — While Angelique Harrington was yearning for her son to wake up from a major heroin overdose she was given three bits of advice by medical staff: pray, hope for the best, but be prepared for the worst.
Harrington was prepared. In fact, she had been prepared for about a half a year.
Because when the worst came, she wanted to be ready.
Harrington knew deep down the morning of Nov. 18, 2016, was coming; she just didn’t know when.
When she found her son, Josh Beck, face-down on his bedroom floor, struggling to breathe, she ran for her Narcan kit. He had been released from state prison only eight days earlier.
“My immediate reaction was to scream. My husband and other son both came running to Josh’s room as I was calling 911,” Harrington said replaying that cold fall morning in her head.
“Then I administered both doses of Narcan in my kit. There was no response from Josh. When the police department came, they also gave him two doses of Narcan, still no response. When the EMTs arrived, they administered two more doses of Narcan, no response.”
After four days of being unresponsive, hooked up to a ventilator and an IV drip of Narcan, Beck came to.
“The doctors have told us that if we didn’t have Narcan, he wouldn’t have made it,” Harrington said.
She had been trained to use Narcan while he was in prison.
“Narcan saved his life.”
Today, Harrington carries the lifesaving drug around in her purse.
The surge of people who have died in the opioid epidemic has shocked the nation, with overdoses now the leading cause of death for Americans under 50, according to an article in The New York Times. Those who have lost someone are usually pained and scarred for life.
But most drug users do not die.
Far more like Beck, 23, are caught in the vicious cycle of addiction — and so are families like his.
“What is it like having a loved one that struggles with substance abuse disorder? It’s devastating,” Harrington said.
“What happens next is, we get sick right along with them.”
Harrington talked about the constant state of fear and panic she and her family lived with each day.
“We are afraid of the phone ringing, or that knock on the door,” she said.
She mentioned how relapse is a normal part of recovery and how that November morning was his relapse and her slap-in-the-face moment.
“I never thought my son would overdose. Not my child. ... I was in denial,” Harrington said.
But Beck’s a little different from many people who struggle with a heroin addiction, because he’s only overdosed once during his almost four years of using.
Often, rescue personnel are called back to the same house for the same person who needs saving, explained Warren County Undersheriff Shawn Lamouree.
In 2017, the Warren County Sheriff’s Office administered Narcan on three separate occasions, administering multiple doses to each victim. Each overdose was reversed.
Narcan, also known by the generic name naloxone, counteracts the effects of an opioid overdose.
This year, they’ve administered Narcan to one person numerous times and it was not reversible.
The Sheriff’s Office’s kits have two doses per kit, the standard amount that can be purchased in a pharmacy.
Warren County experienced a significant rise in suspected heroin overdoses last year — more than double the total reported for all of 2016.
Lamouree said he thinks the department doesn’t get nearly the amount of calls as overdoses because Narcan has been accessible to everyone in pharmacies since last year.
“I think now when you have a friend or family member who is addicted, you’re getting the training and the Narcan to be ready,” Lamouree said.
Just like Harrington.
She was trained by the Nar-Anon Family Group in South Glens Falls, which is also where she said she started her recovery.
“For a long time I struggled in silence, in fear of being judged. I sat home and cried, worried, prayed,” Harrington said.
“Nar-Anon has been life changing for me.”
Nar-Anon a support group in South Glens Falls that offers a free 12-step program and allows people in the same situation to share similar experiences and hope. The class is free and open to everyone.
‘Life is good’
Today, life for the family is different.
Harrington worries less, but still worries. She admitted she’ll still sneak into Beck’s room at night to make sure he’s breathing. She says the fear of relapse will always be there, but in general, “life is good.”
For Beck, he’s busy being a dad.
“I’ve got a life of my own that I’m actually happy to have and a beautiful daughter who wouldn’t have met her father if it wasn’t for Narcan,” Beck said.
“If it wasn’t for my mom taking a Narcan safety class, I’d be dead today.”
Saturday night, the mother and son played Cards Against Humanity together at the Hope and Healing Recovery Community Center in Hudson Falls. Next Saturday, they are giving a talk together at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Mechanicville.
Beck’s been clean for more than 470 days.
“My advice for other families: you’re not alone. There are plenty of families out there in this community with a loved one that is struggling,” Harrington said.
“If I had never gone to Nar-Anon, I wouldn’t have known about Narcan.”
“I will continue to go to this meeting as it saved my life, and literally saved my son’s life.”
Six days after U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Willsboro, returned from a seven-day trip to Ukraine, Estonia and Latvia, she talked with the Enterprise about what she learned there, the state of cyberwarfare in Eastern Europe and recent actions taken by Russian and American leaders.
Stefanik, who is a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said that on the trip she talked with leaders of the three countries that are “on the cutting edge of Russia’s destabilizing influences” about how Russia is influencing elections and carrying out cyberattacks.
She said this is nothing new and that Russia has been producing propaganda for Eastern European countries since the fall of the Soviet Union.
In 2007, Russia waged a large-scale cyberattack on Estonia that shut down access to all websites. In 2014, Russia took the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine, and forces it supported clashed with Ukraine’s military. And in Latvia, Stefanik said the Kremlin has been successful in influencing politics through propaganda.
As the chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities, Stefanik said she has been focused on countering cyberattacks and information warfare from Russia since she entered Congress three years ago.
Differing from President Donald Trump’s view of Russian aggression, Stefanik said she is concerned over that country’s military and propaganda efforts.
“I have been explicitly clear since my first day in Congress that I view Russia as an adversary,” Stefanik said. “Election 2016 was obviously a wake-up call for the U.S., but this is part of a broader global strategy when it comes to Russia asserting its influence and trying to destabilize democratic institutions.”
She said the U.S. needs to develop its cyberdefense systems to surpass Russian technology.
Russian President Vladimir Putin announced Thursday in his state-of-the-nation speech that the country has expanded nuclear capabilities. The United States responded by sending 210 anti-tank missiles to Ukraine.
Putin showed off a series of cruise missiles, nuclear-powered underwater drones and a new hypersonic missile that he said travels five times the speed of sound, saying the new weapons can render missile defense systems useless.
The second purpose of Stefanik’s trip was to assert U.S. support for NATO allies Estonia and Latvia and to show U.S. commitment to Ukraine. Stefanik said she supports Ukraine joining NATO.
In a time of increased Russian aggression, Stefanik said it is imperative to maintain good relationships with NATO allies such as Latvia and Estonia.
She also said the U.S. needs to focus on modernizing its nuclear programs. She said Putin’s announcement underlines the need for new missile defense technology on the East Coast of the U.S. Stefanik has proposed Fort Drum, near Watertown, as a location for the eastern seaboard’s defense hub, and it is currently one of three locations being considered. A decision will be made within 60 days of the Trump administration’s missile defense review.
Stefanik said while she differs with Trump on the danger Russia presents, she also vehemently disagreed with former President Barack Obama’s 2009 Russia “reset,” saying the attempt to quell tension between the two superpowers was an “abject failure” and led to the Kremlin propping up the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria, leading to ongoing war and destabilization in the Middle East.