HARWICH – More than a dozen people took to the cold waters at Bank Street Beach last Thursday to honor a woman lost to the opioid drug epidemic over a decade ago and to raise funds for Recoverybuild, a new alternative peer group counseling center for teens.
The Winter Dip is a fundraising event held across the Cape for Recoverybuild, which has mentoring centers in Falmouth and Harwich in partnership with the Duffy Health Center to help teens develop the skills and resilience necessary to grow and create positive change in their lives.
Janis McGrory dedicated the past 11 years fostering education designed to steer people away from opiate and heroin addiction.
McGrory lost her 23-year-old daughter, Liz LeFort, to a drug overdose on Jan. 6, 2011, three days after she was released from a treatment center. LeFort had a bright future; she was an honors student and received a scholarship to Johnson and Wales University.
But she experimented with OxyContin, which led to addiction and heroin use. Since that time, McGrory said, she has tried to beat back opioid addiction and push for tighter controls over the distribution of the drug.
She has been active on the local, regional, and national level with such organizations as the Foundation to End Drug Unfairness Policies (FEDUP) and the Barnstable County Regional Substance Abuse Council and helped found the Community Addition Network at Monomoy High School. McGrory taught math at Monomoy for nine years, retiring two years ago.
Over the past 11 years, McGrory has traveled around the country attending rallies and speaking to groups and organizations about opioid addiction and distribution issues. A large photo of her daughter is by her side at every rally and event. The Harwich Police Association presented McGrory with the Humanitarian Citizen of The Year Award in 2015.
“The work she has done across the board has been amazing,” Harwich Youth Counselor Sheila House said at the Winter Dip Jan. 6.
McGrory, a Harwich resident, said she has just been appointed to the board of directors of Discoverybuild, which set up the mentoring and counseling center in September at the Pleasant Bay Community Boating complex on Route 28 in East Harwich. Prior to that it operated out of PIER Recovery Center in Hyannis. The center has after-school programs on two evenings a week from 5 to 7 p.m. with the aim of assisting 13 to 18 year olds. It’s set up for kids who are worried about themselves, their friends, or family members, House said.
The goal, according to Stephanie Briody, a co-founder of the center through Behavioral Health Innovators, inc., is “to help teens initiate, maintain, and sustain their recovery in an atmosphere of safety, empathy, trust, honesty and compassion.”
The Winter Dip is conducted many times a year across the Cape. Briody said she participated in 63 dips last year, matching her age. She has done about 20 dips so far this year.
There are fundraising heroes, Briody said, including Bob Wirtshafter of Chatham. He participated in 68 dips last year, matching his age, and is shooting for 69 dips this year. In the process he raised more than $20,000.
McGrory said the Winter Dip on Thursday was the first she has held to honor her daughter. The event raised more than $2,500 for Recoverybuild.
“It’s a good way to celebrate Liz’s life. It not only honors her, but it makes a difference,” McGrory said.
“It’s a wonderful program,” House said of Recoverybuild. “It’s all about prevention, and we don’t have enough prevention on Cape Cod.”