By ROBERT PIERCE
• Daily Leader
It is no secret that the fallout of drugs and alcohol affect all people, be it directly or non-directly. This year, cousins Ashlee Swartz and Summer Parsons of Turpin, Okla., have learned the reality of those effects.
On Aug. 24, Swartz’s brother, Chase Adam Schmitzer, at age 21, tragically took his own life. Schmitzer had been seriously struggling with drug and alcohol abuse since high school.
According to Parsons and Swartz, the fight became so overwhelming he felt he had nowhere to go and no one to turn to.
“This is all too often the case with those thousands of people who are fighting the difficult battle against substance abuse,” read a mission statement for “The CHASE (Create Hope, Awareness, Strength and Empowerment) for a Drug Free America,” a new group the cousins formed following the loss of their relative. “They feel alone and beyond help. They are not.”
Parsons said she and Swartz are trying to raise money through donations and fundraising, and those proceeds will go to rehab and treatment centers in the local area.
“Our main goal, our three things are prevention, awareness and intervention,” Parsons said. “Mainly, the intervention part is what the money is going for. Eventually, once we get cash flow and settled in the community, we’ll be able to do schools and churches. We want to do some advertising, PSAs on the radio and fundraiser.”
The CHASE had a booth at this weekend’s KSCB Holiday Home and Fun Show and at another similar show in Guymon, Okla.
“Last weekend, we did the Bears and Hares auction,” Parsons said. “All the proceeds from the food went to our foundation.”
She said items are likewise being sold to help promote the new group.
“We started selling some wrist bands with the name of our foundation,” she said. “We have key chains. We have T-shirts, car decals.”
Parsons said while many families try to keep situations such as Chase’s under wraps, including why it happened, she and Swartz don’t want to do that.
“We want to make sure people who need help are going to get it,” Parsons said. “Sometimes, people don’t, and tragic things can happen out of it. We want to try to avoid that happening to other families.”
The CHASE was started around Halloween, and Parsons said it has been a good experience thus far.
“The ball has really been rolling,” she said. “We were surprised at how fast everything’s taken off.”
Parsons said the CHASE will soon become a 501(c)3 group.
“Right now, we’re in the middle of becoming a non-profit organization, an actual recognized non-profit in Kansas,” she said. “He was from Turpin, but being that we’re so close and this is where the boys did a lot of their stuff. Everything’s based out of Kansas because we felt it was easier, and there’s more treatment in Liberal than the area we’re from.”
Swartz said she and Parsons have talked to some local rehab organizations about the idea of the CHASE.
“We are working on making bulletins and brochures about our stuff,” she said. “We’ve got SKADAF’s permission to put their information in it. There’s one in Turpin that we’ve talked to.”
Parsons said that includes putting out information regarding the centers.
“We have several that are picked out, at least five, but we just want to make sure we get their permission to put their information on our brochure,” she said.
Parsons said non-profit status should be attained within the next two weeks. She said local auctioneer Mike Gatlin heard about the efforts being made and wanted to have a three-day auction in the Ag Building.
“We can have 100 percent of the proceeds from the concessions,” she said. “In May, we’re going to do a walk-a-thon in Blue Bonnet Park and cookout in the park after that. A really big fundraiser that is going to take quite a bit of planning is a motocross race in Dodge. Chase and his brother, Chad, were both really into motocross racing, and we want to be able to connect that.”
Parsons said there is not a target age for the CHASE, but rather they would like to help anyone at any point in their process of substance abuse recovery.
“If they’ve already gotten treatment but they need therapy to emotionally work out what they’ve already gone through, we’ll help them get therapy,” she said. “If they are in the peak of their addiction, we’ll help them get treatment. No matter what step they’re at, we’re going to try to help them.”
Swartz said when money begins to come in, this is when money will be distributed to local rehab centers.
“We can help them find the right place,” she said. “We can even drive them to a rehab center. We’ll go the extra mile to make sure they get what they need.”
Parsons said a list of all local Alcoholics and Narcotics Anonymous meetings has been also obtained.
“We’re going to put that on the brochure as well so they know exactly what days and what times the meetings are,” she said. “A lot of times, I don’t even think people realize those resources are even there.”
Parsons said after going online, she and Swartz found all of the local centers for all groups.
“We made sure we covered an adult, girls only, boys only, a young adult or adolescent,” she said. “That way, it does cover all age groups.”
Swartz, whose husband was also an addict and died in a car wreck just five days after Chase, said business cards are being made for those needing help.
“I’ve been fighting this for a really long time,” she said. “I’ve been through the rehab thing, not personally, but with somebody.”
Parsons said whether or not a person chooses to use substances such as alcohol and drugs, they need to know how that usage affects them as well.
“Neither of us have ever chosen to do drugs, and it has just as well affected us as it does the person who takes the drugs,” she said. “That’s part of our prevention and awareness. We hope to get into the schools and talk to the junior highs and maybe even fifth and sixth and have an actual addict who’s been through it talk, a family member who’s been affected by it – each part of it. There’s so many different aspects of it.”
Parsons said the subject of drug and alcohol use is very personal for she and Swartz.
“Putting our cell phone numbers on there was not an issue,” she said of the mission statement. “People need to call us and talk about it. It’s letting people know that this is a personal thing, and this is why this was begun. It really does affect you.”
For help finding treatment, e-mail
, or call Swartz at 655-5642 or Parsons at (620) 212-3805.
For more information, go to The CHASE’s Web site at www.causes.com/thechase.