The Greenbrier Resort Kicks Off Memorial Day Weekend
According to history.com, “Memorial Day is an American holiday observed on the last Monday of May, honoring the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military.
Originally known as ‘Decoration Day,’ it originated in the years following the Civil War and became an official federal holiday in 1971. Many Americans observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries or memorials, holding family gatherings and participating in parades. Unofficially, it marks the beginning of the summer season.”
To put it another way, Memorial Day is an opportunity for us to look back at what is behind us, as well as ahead to the warmer days yet to come.
Memorial Day is perhaps the perfect analogy for West Virginia; a state which is keenly aware of both where it comes from and where it is going. And it is in that spirit that some of the Mountain State’s most prominent and successful sons and daughters are joining forces to battle some of humanity’s fiercest adversaries.
Joe Boczek is the executive director of Game Changer, “a youth-led, adult-based, prevention, peer-to-peer influence, positive youth development and community enhancement initiative designed to educate, support and empower youth to make healthy choices as they prepare to be our leaders of tomorrow.
Game Changer, through a partnership with the Hazelden/Betty Ford Foundation, is a cooperative effort between the Governor’s office, the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission (WVSSAC), the West Virginia Department of Education, the West Virginia Office of Drug Control Policy, the West Virginia Drug Intervention Institute, Help and Hope WV and the state’s six Prevention Lead Organizations.”
Boczek, along with WVSSAC Executive Director Bernie Dolan and MVP Bank Executive Vice President and CFO Dob Robinson, are the founders of Game Changer. The program, which has been gaining momentum despite the constraints of a global pandemic, has become an irreplaceable resource to those families struggling with substance misuse and mental health challenges.
Game Changer, along with help from some of West Virginia’s most notable homegrown supporters, will be kick-starting Memorial Day weekend with the first annual Game Changer Golf Classic and Opioid and Substance Misuse Prevention Education Luncheon. The event will be held at the Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, over two days, from Wednesday, May 26 until Thursday, May 27. Attending the event will be West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice, as well as United States Sen. from West Virginia Joe Manchin.
“I wouldn’t miss this event for the world,” Manchin said. “The Game Changer Initiative is such a fantastic movement working for such a vital cause, and Gayle (Manchin, Sen. Manchin’s wife) and I are committed to doing anything we can to help.”
Also scheduled to attend is Alabama Head Football Coach Nick Saban, along with his wife, Terry. Saban, a native of Monongah, West Virginia, has an overall coaching record of 256 wins, 65 losses, and one tie. With a total of seven national championships under his belt, Saban has led his teams to more championship titles than any other coach in the history of college football.
And, as former Florida coach Steve Spurrier put it in a January interview with Yahoo Sports, “I think he’s (Saban) got a lot more left.”
The money raised by the two-day event will be used for the development of cutting-edge opioid and substance misuse prevention education programs for young people in West Virginia’s schools.
“The opioid crisis must be met head-on, or we stand the chance of losing a generation of our kids,” Saban said. “Terry and I have fond memories of our time growing up in West Virginia and look forward to the opportunity to come back and try and do our part to help the kids and families in West Virginia.”
Terry Saban grew up in Fairmont, West Virginia; just a few country miles down the road from her husband’s hometown, both in Marion County. For their first date, Nick took Terry to see “Gone With the Wind.” Married in 1970, the Sabans will celebrate their fiftieth wedding anniversary later this year.
“As a former teacher, I have an affinity for children everywhere,” Terry said. “Being born and raised in West Virginia, I have a special place in my heart for the children of this great state. The opioid and substance misuse crisis destroys families and negatively impacts the communities where Nick and I grew up and where our families still live today. We can’t and won’t stand idly by without trying to do our part.”
Sen. Manchin is also a native of Marion County and has been a friend of the Sabans for many years.
“We are obviously looking forward to seeing Nick and Terry, and more importantly helping to raise the necessary funds needed to implement the cutting-edge prevention education curriculum being designed by the wonderful folks at the Hazelden/Betty Ford Foundation.”
Aside from being the state’s chief executive, Gov. Justice has served as “head coach and general manager” of Game Changer since July of last year and is the head coach of the Greenbrier East High School girls basketball team. While his career in sports may not be quite as prolific as Saban’s, Justice has amassed over 500 wins as a coach.
Justice is every bit as excited as Manchin at the prospect of welcoming Terry and Nick Saban to the Greenbrier.
“I mean what can I say but how fortunate and thankful we are that Coach Saban and Terry have agreed to join us as special guests for this event,” Justice said. “To have perhaps the greatest college football coach of all-time, but more importantly two wonderful human beings born and raised in our great state, to care enough to come back and help us on this project has me speechless.”
Shortly after the event was officially announced, Boczek said he was “overwhelmed” by the level of support shown for both the Game Changer Initiative, as well as the event itself.
“It is almost surreal, and no doubt the result of some divine intervention,” Boczek said. “To have so many people from so many places, starting with Gov. Justice and the First Lady (Cathy) and Sen. Manchin and Gayle, along with Coach Saban and Terry, willing to take the time and come to help really touches my heart in a big way.”
For Boczek, Game Changer is a passion project; a way to give back to the state that he calls home.
“Other West Virginians, people from all over the country, as well as companies and corporations are reaching out to the Game Changer Team. This is not only overwhelming but also very gratifying. The children of West Virginia are very lucky to have so many people who care about them.”
The event will begin with a dinner on Wednesday evening, at which time the first annual “Game Changer of the Year” will be named. The dinner will also feature remarks from Gov. Justice, Sen. Manchin, and Terry and Nick Saban. Thursday will feature the golf event, as well as other activities. The Opioid and Substance Misuse Prevention Education Luncheon will begin at 10 a.m.
To register for the event, or to become a Game Changer yourself, visit wvgamechanger.com.