From her resume one could easily assume that Northport High School math teacher Tammy Walsh has been fighting the war on drugs for years.
Walsh's efforts to raise awareness and support recovery stems from her own recent experience. Just a little over a year ago, her own son grappled with addiction and Walsh and her husband put him into a recovery center in Florida. Some people might have kept the battle private but not Walsh. She saw it as an opportunity to help others. And so began the Northport Community Book Club, whose members read and share books by authors who have fought their own personal addiction demons and won.
"I thought if I couldn't save my own son, I was going to do my damnedest to save someone else's son," she recalled. Happily, her son's journey took a positive turn; he has been drug-free for eleven months.
Anthony Ferrandino, one of the co-founders of the Drug and Alcohol Task Force, and a counselor at Northport High School, credits her energy and passion. "To me, she's amazing because she does so much on her own and it's done for the community. She's never faltered in her goal of 'This is for the kids.'"
Her students and Book Club members are keenly aware of Walsh's efforts and have followed her progress through her frequent Facebook postings. While in Washington D.C. in February to speak at the Anti-Drug Coalitions of America Leadership Forum, she taped a message for stopmedecineabuse.org, and did a separate video to her students thanking them for their support and urging them to get involved.
Those supporters are currently busy helping Walsh organize R.A.P. (Recovery, Awareness, and Prevention) week, which will kick off on April 25 at the Northport Public Library with a visit from James Brown, bestselling author of The Los Angeles Diaries. Brown will be on hand to speak to students and sign books at the high school on Thursday and Friday.
The final event is the dedication of two benches on April 27 at the Skate Park in the on Bellerose Avenue in East Northport which will be in memory of those community members who have lost their lives to drugs. The event will run from 5-8 p.m. with activities for the whole family, including face painting, tattoos, raffle baskets and food donated by local merchants. Money raised through the sale of purple R.A.P tee shirts goes towards a scholarship for a member of the community. Anyone who would like to order a tee shirt for $12 or donate items for the event can email Walsh at firstname.lastname@example.org.
With an eye toward the future, Walsh is currently training to become a certified Smart Recovery Facilitator, a program which she says is more science-based than other addiction programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. She hopes to become certified in June so she can start holding meetings in the community.
When asked how Greg, her husband of 24 years, and her two sons deal with her hectic schedule, the lifelong Northport resident laughed. "Sometimes, I'll be sitting with my laptop on my lap, with my iPad and my phone going on either side of me, and my husband will just look at me and say, "Oh my God, do you see yourself?"
But clearly the long hours reap rewards. As Walsh wrote in one of her blogs for Five Moms, "When I started the Northport Community Book Club I never imagined that we would make such an impact on so many lives and on a national level. I threw myself into helping others at a time when I thought I was losing my own son forever. We all need to do our own part to protect our teens. Every day that my son is drug-free is a joy and I want all parents to know this feeling."