Tragedy into Triumph
by Rebecca Utley-Baker
Ten years ago, I lost my eldest brother, John, to a heart attack. My family was shocked that a man of 47 years with no signs of heart disease would pass suddenly. Needless to say, it impacted our family beyond words.
A year and a half later, my younger brother, Jim, took his life while on a meth binge around his 35th birthday. The coroner said that he probably didn’t even realize that he had a gun in his hand; he hadn’t eaten or slept in six days.
Jim Utley was the youngest of five children in my family. We grew up in West Plano. He was introduced to drugs at a young age while in middle school. Like many pre-teens and teens, Jim experimented with drugs and alcohol. Jim battled addiction his entire adult life. I believe that there were underlying, untreated medical issues, which led to his early usage of gateway drugs as a way to try to balance. What started off as mild alcohol and marijuana use, eventually led to taking cocaine and methamphetamine.
I was close to Jim, however, he was especially close to my mother. He was her baby. She told me once that he made her feel free. I could understand that. Jim had great energy.
My mother and I were there when Jim died. We were in the next room when we heard a shot that haunts us even today. I broke down his bedroom door, which was locked, and we held Jim as he took his last breath. I didn’t think that my mom would survive. I was so crippled that I let all of my marketing clients go and couldn’t work, sleep or eat much for three years. My family grieved. A wonderful light left us and we couldn’t comprehend what had happened. I wanted everything and everyone to STOP. The world kept turning…such is life.
I started The Jim Utley Foundation in 2008 with my parents’ help. It was key in learning how to cope with our loss while reaching kids at a younger age than ever before with a message promoting drug abstinence. Our foundation visits schools, churches and youth groups throughout the year addressing today’s complex issues relating to drugs including dealing with peer pressure. JUF promotes the value of life without the use of street drugs – and we now include information about prescription drug use and abuse. Our hope is that kids will think twice about trying a drug even once.
In addition JUF offers a unique, online reward program for tweens-teens called Test Yourself, which is currently being revamped. The new mobile app version due out in late August 2015, will reward ages 10-17 for things like getting good grades, doing community service, and being active in organized clubs and sports – some of the things that help keep youth busy and out of trouble. Jim’s name lives on doing great things in our community.
ROCK THE BLOCK RUN BENEFITS THE JIM UTLEY FOUNDATION
The 6th Annual Rock The Block 10k, 5k & Fun Run benefits The Jim Utley Foundation on Saturday, May 23rd (Memorial Day Weekend) at Oak Point Park in Plano, Texas. Rock The Block supports JUF’s mission to help kids live drug free and discover the benefits of healthy and productive living. To register, visit RockTheBlockTexas.com. Bring the entire family out to run, walk or crawl…whatever it takes! A small army of dedicated individuals is also needed to host a run of this size; your help is needed. To volunteer, donate or sponsor JUF, visit DontEvenTryIt.org. JUF is a registered 501(c)3 non-profit.
Here is the link to sign up: http://donteventryit.org/newsevents/rocktheblock.html