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Tough guy says no to drugs

Dorothy Westerman
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Dec 09/05) - Love is the core of happiness, a man who fought for a living told Yellowknife students Monday.

Former Canadian heavyweight boxer George Chuvalo delivered a tough message on drugs, despair and death, but emphasized that it's love that strengthens and heals.

"Imagine, that. Me talking about love," the boxer said.

"If it wasn't for love, I wouldn't be here today," he said.

"When you have love you have a solid foundation and it is a lot easier to make a tough decision or choices."

Chuvalo, 68, is touring the Northwest Territories telling how he lost three sons and his wife Lynn to drugs.

His first stop was William McDonald school, where he spoke to a gymnasium packed with students.

His presentation included a CBC documentary about how the lives of his children took a downward spiral because of drug addiction.

"Every time I hear that video I think of beautiful young people and how is it they will so willingly and so frivolously and so recklessly get involved with drugs.

"How does that happen?" he questioned.

Chuvalo spoke openly about his tragic past. The first of his sons to die was Jesse, who committed suicide in 1985, followed by George Lee in 1993 and his wife Lynn, who committed suicide by drug overdose just days after Georgie's funeral.

Steven was the last to die of a heroin overdose in 1996.

Chuvalo told the students that this is the time in their lives when monumental decisions are made about their lifestyle and choices.

"Education is the single most important determinant on how well you will do in life," he said.

He described the ugly side of drug abuse and how it affects the mind and body, as children sat silently and listened to his message.

"If only my son could have seen himself as I've seen him," he said of the ravages of heroin on him as it took its toll.

Principal of William McDonald school, Dean MacInnis, said so many messages about drugs, alcohol and smoking are being presented through the media that children must make choices at an earlier age. "It's tough for an 11-year-old to make a decision about drugs and drinking, but it is a reality," MacInnis said.

"We want to give them the skills and strategies for them to make a positive choice for themselves."

Audrey MacDougall, program support teacher at William McDonald, said students are getting a clear message that a good foundation of unconditional love and support is important.

"That is the essential part of children saying no to drugs, when they have the love and support."