An Evening with Tony Luke Jr.
Authored by Audra Franchini
Recovery Centers of America began the new Community Education Partnership Series on Thursday, November 30th. The series consists of An Evening with Tony Luke, Jr, a true Philadelphia legend. Namely, Tony Jr. has started a movement to remove stigmas associated with substance abuse. Specifically, he focuses on those struggling with heroin addictions. The youngest of the father-son cheesesteak empire has a personal connection to the disease. Tony Jr used loss of his son to a heroin overdose to create the #BrownandWhite campaign. Through this, he wants to spread awareness about the effects of the drug and the steps to take towards recovery.
Over the years, Tony Jr., his father, and brother Nicky have been big names in the Philly area since opening their first cheesesteak shop in 1992. Unfortunately, Tony Jr. spent several years struggling with a drug problem. Through unconditional support from family and friends, he eventually managed to turn his life around. Unfortunately, his son Tony III fell into an opioid addiction in the 2000s. Opioid abuse had become a widespread epidemic in the city. His life ended tragically with an overdose in March of 2017.
More than 100 individuals came to hear Tony’s story, “Addiction, Recovery, Resilience and Hope.” This event was hosted at our outpatient Services center in Wilmington, DE. The crowd contained patients in recovery, former patients, friends and family, recovery professionals, and more. Throughout the night, Tony Jr. spoke about his own story, and held an open question panel for guests. Overall, the aim of the event was to combat the stigma and stereotypes associated with heroin addiction.
Tony Jr’s speech was moving to many, including Nikole Papas, Clinical outpatient Director at Wilmington. Most noteworthy was his comment that, “it’s important to break those barriers, to show that people struggling with heroin addiction need to be treated with respect and value and worth.” Papas believed that this was the most important part to take away from Tony Jr’s address.
By the end of the program, Tony’s words showed immediate positive effects. Moments after the event, two people approached RCA team members. They both were struggling with addictions and asked for help towards recovery. Above all, Papas’ life work has spread to a larger audience, and this is exciting to her. To see the great impact of Tony’s message to simply tell someone they’re “worth it” is overwhelming. “We need to talk to each other, to ask them what they need, to not shut the door,” she encouraged. “You always need to keep talking.”
In conclusion, anyone interested in taking up the fight to help those battling heroin addiction should share their own moment of being told “I’m worth it,” by using the hashtag #BrownandWhite. Those struggling can call Recovery Centers of America at 1-800-RECOVERY.