Finding light in the storm

Two Washougal youths host a fund-raising event for Teen Challenge

Chloe and Carson Connors are hosting the “Challenge for Change,” event in honor of their brother, who overcame a heroin addiction.

Challenge for change

When: Sunday from 2 to 4 p.m.

Where: The Jack, Will and Rob Boys & Girls Club, 2033 N.E. Ione St., Camas. It will include resource materials, a silent auction, youth art walk and entertainment. A portion of the proceeds benefit Teen Challenge Portland Men’s Center.

For more information: Call Deborah Connors at 713-1232

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Deborah Connors and her son, Jaron, are all smiles at a recent Teen Challenge event. Jaron has been in the treatment program for eight months and is doing well, his mom said.

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A painting by 11-year-old Chloe Connors, called “Hope,” will be sold in the silent auction to raise money for Teen Challenge Metro Men’s Center.

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Jaron Connors looked healthy and hopeful in his 2008 high school senior portrait, but he was hiding a dangerous drug addiction.

“I’ve seen a storm, I won’t wait for another

Lord with your help I will make a change

Guide my hands to the brokenhearted

Help me shine the light on the rain.

Shine light on the rain…”

Carson Connors of Washougal wrote the song, “Shine Light on the Rain,” after seeing his brother struggle with a drug addiction. On Sunday, he and sister Chloe, of Washougal, will help shine a light on the realities of substance abuse when they host “Challenge for Change,” at the Jack, Will and Rob Boys & Girls Club in Camas.

The two were just 7 and 10 years old when their brother, Jaron, became addicted to heroin. They watched helplessly as the sibling they loved and admired turned into a stranger. “It was really bad,” Carson, 14, said. “I saw it all happen, and was there on the side watching. I didn’t know how to express myself or say how it made me feel. It was really hard.”

Chloe, 11, added softly, “I didn’t really know what was going on, but it was hard.”

Jaron, 21, has now turned his life around and is in a recovery program at Teen Challenge Portland Men’s Center. The faith-based, non-profit program helps addicts and others through all facets of the recovery process. Jaron has been there for eight months.

He had been through several treatment programs before he hit rock bottom: His mom, Deborah, told Jaron he could no longer have any contact with his family, due to his substance abuse and the dangerous underworld that went with it.

“I had to go tell him he would not be allowed to ever come home,” she said. “He was literally on the street. You never expect your kids to fall into these things. It was terrible, but we had to get him out. It was four years of pain, tears and emotion.”

Her younger children didn’t fully understand what had happened to their brother, but knew it wasn’t good. However, they also celebrate the fact that he is now clean and sober, and is well on his way to living a better life.

Carson and Chloe are hoping to raise money for Teen Challenge with their first annual Challenge for Change event. It will include a youth art walk, silent auction and resource materials from organizations such as PREVENT!, The Washougal Coalition, Salvation Army, STASHA, Celebrate Recovery and Washougal Resource Center.

In addition, JWR will be giving away free, year-long memberships to all kids who attend.

“We wanted to do something for Jaron and Teen Challenge,” Carson said. “And let the community know about the substance abuse issue here.”

He and Chloe both received Junior Youth Achievement awards in the “inspiration” category, for their efforts to coordinate this event.

A family lifeline

Deborah and her husband, Dan, often felt alone and isolated during Jaron’s addiction, due to the lack of resources for families of teen drug addicts.

“It shouldn’t be a situation where a parent doesn’t know who to call, where to go or what to do,” she said.

Teen Challenge was a lifeline to the family, who had difficulty affording expensive treatment centers that ultimately, did not work for Jaron. Teen Challenge is different in that participants live on-site for a year, and the program is donation based.

“What makes this a great story is that ultimately, there is hope,” Deborah said. “It feels amazing now. We went through a grief process for so long. As a mom, you want all of your kids to be happy.”

Carson said that everyone can make a difference.

“You may be a kid, but you can do something,” he said. “I was really surprised how a little idea became a huge event. You just need to try.”

Chloe created a painting for the silent auction called “Hope,” with sparkles woven throughout the background. It symbolizes what her family feels now.

“To see my children put this into action is amazing,” Deborah said. “This is a positive story that shows what we can do as individuals to take our experiences and reach out to help others. As Carson and Chloe’s mom, I am beyond proud of these two kids who could have just as easily let this situation take them down a very different path.”

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