Jefferson Award winner turns personal struggle into action again - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Jefferson Award winner turns personal struggle into action against addiction

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MONROE (WKOW) -- Every month, WKOW honors a local volunteer with the Jefferson Award for Public Service.

This month, we recognize a woman from Monroe, who's sending a message all families need to hear and helping those fighting addiction.

"My son grew up a typical boy from a small town," says Jackie Kundert. "It was shortly after high school that he turned to prescription pain medication."

Jackie's son, Dan, quickly became addicted to prescription pills and eventually, heroin.

"He actually tried to stop, multiple times. He went through withdrawals trying to come off the medication and actually signed himself into in-patient rehab."

Dan struggled with addiction for years and by the age of 19, landed in prison.

"He's been gone 5.5 years."

?Jackie's story is one many Wisconsin families can relate to.

"I saw the rates of heroin overdose and how they changed from 2008 to 2012. It was that second that I saw that map, that I knew I had to do something to try to help."

So, this year she started a nonprofit in Green County to raise awareness of the dangers of addiction and to support families struggling with it.

It's called F.A.I.T.H., or, "Fighting Addiction, It Takes Help."

"I've learned that addiction doesn't have any prejudice to race, age, socioeconomic status. Addiction takes you over no matter where you are in life."

Jackie recruited volunteers to share their stories of addiction at educational forums.

"They're really happy to have someone that they can talk to and share," says volunteer Mary Friedrichs.

Mary lost her son, Michael, to a heroin overdose.

"We just stayed with him until the end , until his brain was dead and we were there for him. But it was really a horrid thing to have happen."

F.A.I.T.H. holds events to help families like Mary's remember their lost loved ones.

Hundreds showed up to support F.A.I.T.H.'s mission, at its first annual run.

Jackie's also partnered with law enforcement to encourage people to properly get rid of their old medications, so they don't end up in the wrong hands.

Every police department and sheriff's office in Green County has a prescription drug drop box.

The nonprofit's efforts have been so successful, the group's already expanded to other parts of the state.

"We've actually started F.A.I.T.H. sister communities in Washington County, Waukesha County and Brown Counties as well," says Jackie.

And with her son, Dan's blessing, she's using his story to prevent tragic outcomes for other families.

"It moves him to tears too and he's happy we're trying to make a difference in other people's lives. One of my mottos has always been, 'It's not how you survive the storm but how you dance in the rain."

F.A.I.T.H. is holding a Lights of Hope event September 20 for people to come together to remember loved ones they've lost or those in recovery.

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