2018-07-29 / Insight

Lost in the Woods helps groups tell their story

BY PHIL FOLEY
810-452-2616 • pfoley@mihomepaper.com

OREGON TWP. — This time of year there’s hardly a weekend in southeast and mid-Michigan without a music festival, but the Lost in the Woods Music Festival on Aug. 4 at Torzewski County Park, 2051 Pero Lake Rd., is a festival with a difference.

The festival, which is in its fourth year, raises funds to support nonprofit charitable groups in Lapeer County, especially ones that help children in crisis.

Lapeer County Sheriff’s Dept. Det./Sgt. Bob Wells, who created the festival, told The County Press last year, “At some point in everyone’s lives they sort of get lost. We just want them to know there’s help to lead them back out of the woods.”

Linda Forys, a retired North Branch Area Schools educator who helps Wells organize the event, said the main beneficiaries of this year’s festival will be the Suicide Prevention Network of Lapeer County (SPN), Lapeer Area Citizens Against Domestic Assault (LACADA), Child Advocacy Center of Lapeer County (CAC) and Families Against Narcotics, Lapeer Chapter (FAN). But, she added, every year they come up with a little extra money to help some other groups. Last year Lost in the Woods made additional donations to Stone Soup Food Bank and Golden Arrow Drop-in Center.

While Lost in the Woods is a fundraiser, Forys and others agree its biggest impact is raising public awareness.

Lapeer Area Citizens Against Domestic Assault (LACADA)

LACADA is the oldest of the four groups featured at Lost In the Woods this year. Since 1991 LACADA has provided a safe haven and support services for the victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and/or stalking. LACADA’s Executive Director, Tracey Walker, said their shelter provides an average of 4,300 bed nights annually. Licensed for 19 people, the shelter is frequently at capacity.

Walker said that while LACADA does get a donation from Lost in the Woods, its biggest benefit is an opportunity to do community outreach. “It’s a chance for us to connect with the community,” she said. “It’s a lot of fun.”

LACADA provides free and confidential support services that include crisis intervention, support groups, court accompaniment, information and referrals, emergency shelter and personal advocacy.

Child Advocacy Center of Lapeer County (CAC)

The Child Advocacy Center of Lapeer County, which opened its doors in 2008, supplied the inspiration for Lost in the Woods. Wells not only investigates criminal sexual conduct and child abuse cases for the sheriff’s department, he’s on the board of the non-profit CAC.

Working with the victims of domestic abuse, drugs and sexual assault, Wells, who plays in a local band himself, decided four years ago that something needed to be done to help raise awareness for groups that provide services to those victims.

CAC offers a non-threatening, childfriendly place for children to share their traumatic experiences with prosecutors, law enforcement, child protective services (CPS), and medical providers in single which reduces the number of times the child has to share and relive their story. CAC Executive Director Heather Frayer said last year more than 100 children were interviewed at CAC and services were provided to near 500 more.

Frayer said the festival is an “extremely important opportunity to bring the community together.”

Emily Sznitka, CAC’s Intake Coordinator and Forensic Investigator, added, “It’s a lot of fun.”

Families Against Narcotics, Lapeer Chapter (FAN)

“Getting more people to know who we are, that’s our goal” said FAN President Peggy Patten.

The Lapeer County FAN Chapter was an outgrow of then-Prosecuting Attorney Byron Konschuh’s Heroin Task Force, which drew community professionals and community members together to address the growing problem of heroin abuse in 2011. FAN members from Fraser where the organization was born four years earlier, came to Lapeer and helped start a chapter.

The group currently has about 50 members including parents affected by abuse and addiction, concerned citizens, law enforcement, school administrators, health professionals, and recovering addicts. FAN meets at 7 p.m. the second Thursday of the month at St. Matthew’s Anglican Church, 220 W. Nepessing St. in downtown Lapeer.

“On a good night we get about 30 people,” Patren said. “We look at events like Lost ‘n the Woods as an opportunity to spread information. Our goal is that when you do need us that you know we are there.”

Suicide Prevention Network of Lapeer County (SPN)

The Lapeer County Suicide Prevention Network, which meets at 8:30 p.m. the second Friday of the month at the Lapeer County Health Dept. at 1800 Imlay City Rd., in Lapeer Township, is the newest of the groups to benefit from Lost in the Woods.

SPN spokesman Betsy Felton said the network formed in 2009 as a small group of community leaders who saw a rise in suicides and suicides attempts in Lapeer County and wanted to do something to make a difference to curb the deaths and offer hope and assistance.

Felton said group draws together people from Lapeer County Community Mental Health, McLaren Lapeer Region, law enforcement, Central Dispatch and others to focus on prevention and education. SPN’s message, Felton said, “is that help is available for people who feel hopeless.”

She said, Lost in the Woods is “huge” because “anywhere there are people, we can spread the word.” And the word, she said, is that people are not alone and there is hope and help.

People who are in crisis can get help at Lapeer County Community Mental Health, 810-667-0500; McLaren Region Hope Line, 810-667-5611; National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-TALK (8255); or National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (Spanish) 1-800-273-TALK (8255) — Press 2.

SPN members are available for presentations to community agencies or groups. The group also has billboards in the county and is running a commercial at Lapeer Cinemas. SPN can also pay for counseling for people in acute crisis, since not everyone is insured.

The group also runs a Grief Support Group from 6-7:30 p.m. the first and second Tuesday of the month in a second-floor conference room at St. Matthew’s Anglican Church in Lapeer.

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