Give America Hope is a Frederick-based, national nonprofit organization, founded two years ago by businessman Charlie Seymour. The “HOPE” in the organization’s name is an acronym for Heroin-Opioid Prevention Education.
Give America Hope’s mission is to develop timely, free and accessible education and training programs to help individuals, families and all segments of society eradicate the heroin and opioid epidemic, as well as other pervasive health and safety crises facing the nation.
“Our goal is to educate communities, specifically our school-age children of the dangers associated with prescription pain medications,” Charlie Seymour explained. “If we can teach the next generation how quickly these medications can take hold of their lives, we can reduce or even eliminate (the addiction problem).”
Seymour grew up in Frederick, studied at the University of Maryland and worked for several years after graduation for a major brokerage house in D.C. and New York City. He came back home to Frederick at 28. “I decided I wanted to work in a community where I really knew everyone.”
Today Seymour, 58, is the founder and president of seven Maryland businesses, and he is president of Give America Hope. He divides his professional life between his business ventures and serving the community and its nonprofits. Before beginning Give America Hope two years ago, Seymour served the community in other ways for many years—and still does.
But it wasn’t always that way, according to Seymour, a family man who is the father of two sons in their 20s and a teenage daughter. “Thirty years ago, when I came back, I wasn’t volunteer-minded. I was self-centered, only thinking about making money and working.”
A self-described workaholic, Seymour used his strong work ethic to run the award-winning Turning Point Inn where, in his 30s, he hurt his back.
The injury was the beginning of Seymour’s personal journey into addiction. The first time he went to a doctor, “I was given about a hundred Oxys (the opioid pain medication Oxycodone) for my injury.”
Looking back, he said, “It was easy and simple to get doctors to prescribe these things, but none of them gave me a protocol for getting off.
“The drugs instantly made me feel good. … (They) “helped with work, stress and everything.”
Seymour began abusing opioids and began mixing the pain meds and other drugs with alcohol, a potentially lethal combination. Over time, his tolerance for the meds increased and he used more. It was a slippery slope and after a few years, it brought Seymour to a humiliating personal bottom on a golf course.
It was Seymour’s wake-up call and, he said, it could have been much worse.
He went through withdrawal and got off the pills. It was a painful and difficult process. The experience opened his eyes to the
opioid/heroin crisis. All around his community, he saw addiction. He saw bewildered parents. He saw heartache and death.
“Almost every day, I read in the news that someone in my community died, or I heard from a friend that someone they know was gone because of a drug overdose.” He knew parents whose children became addicts. He saw children who struggled with addicted parents. He also knew parents who searched for help for their kids but did not find the necessary resources in time. He saw kids on the street using drugs. He thought about his own children. He decided to get involved. But where to start?
Seymour got some brochures on opioid and heroin addiction and distributed them to parents attending a high school meeting on the topic. At the meeting’s end, he watched people tossing the leaflets in the trashcan as they left. He saw the impact of stigma and realized many people were not interested in talking or learning about the opioid/heroin problem. Seymour set about to learn all he could.
“Heroin and prescription opioid addiction and abuse is an epidemic in our country. It has touched almost every community, every family.
“Think about it. Last year, there were 72,000 overdose deaths, 58,000 of them from opioids. I wondered what we could do.
“Sometimes a light comes on and you realize it’s got to start somewhere. You’ve got to try to do something.
“That’s why I founded Give America Hope. Only with education and prevention can we stop this killer. People with opioid addictions are not criminals or bad people. Most of them are simply looking for a way to reduce physical pain. Often they are people who were given a prescription, only to become physically dependent on the drugs themselves. We need to understand these people in order to help them. We need to learn from their stories in order to prevent the continuation of this disease,” Seymour explained.
Give America Hope has a compelling website (giveamericahope.org), an active Facebook page and an Instagram account. There is an informative blog as well as articles on spotting the early signs of drug or alcohol addiction in your children, and how to help friends with substance abuse problems. There is also information on how to donate to Give America Hope or get involved with the organization.
Give America Hope plans to fund two major initiatives on heroin and opioid awareness, including an innovative app called HOPE to educate parents and caregivers in order to avoid the “If Only I Had Known” scenario, and a facilitator guide for schools and community-based organizations.
Seymour welcomes everyone to the Facebook page and urges them to help by hitting “share” to spread the message of Give America Hope. “If you ‘like’ it, ‘share’ it,” he urged. “Join our movement, and together, we can raise awareness and prevent
Visit www.giveamericahope.org for more information. Give America Hope is located at 8923 Fingerboard Road, Frederick, MD 21704.