Building Stronger Communities: Tyler’s Light

Tyler’s Light creates its own blueprint for the silent stigma of addiction

Wayne Campbell, the founder and president of Tyler’s Light, knew when he started the nonprofit in 2011 the group needed to be about more than his son’s death, which shocked the Pickerington community.
In order to create longevity, the organization had to become more about the issue than the personal story.

“There are organizations out there trying to do what we’re doing, but they are two-person, five-person operations that were basically the same thing: Born out of a tragedy in a family and community,” Campbell says. “They start with a lot of activity and emotion towards it, and then in a year or two it fades away because the shock is gone, and then funding becomes an issue.

“We’re obviously different because we’ve been here for 2 1/2 years and we continue to grow — going out to more places, reaching more people and collaborating with more organizations,” he says.

Tyler’s Light has spawned other organizations, including an affiliate in Cleveland called Robbie’s Voice. Groups on the West Virginia/Ohio border and in Kokomo, Ind., have expressed interest in starting their own organizations as well.

“It’s almost like franchising. Since we can’t be everywhere, if we can help start other little satellite operations that would make our numbers grow,” Campbell says.

Looking at the bigger picture

Started after Tyler’s death from a heroin overdose two years ago, the volunteer-based grass-roots organization serves as a forum to equip parents and youth with information and resources to help them choose a drug-free life, while providing resources for family members and/or friends who are involved in the battle to defeat drug abuse.

Since its founding, the organization has slowly moved away from being about Tyler. It’s about the issue — all the other faces, the Matts, the Janes, the Marys — children’s lives that have been wrecked by addiction.

Addiction is looked at as a poor choice, bad character or bad parenting. But it’s a disease, no different than cancer, HIV/AIDS or Alzheimer’s — only more prevalent.

Managing and attracting volunteers is extremely difficult, Campbell says. If you don’t have a personal connection, it’s hard to spend the amount of time that’s needed.

“Everybody wants to volunteer for the cancer walks. It’s easy to tell a story about a cancer survivor or fatality,” he says. “But people won’t volunteer unless they feel comfortable with the subject.”
And, according to Campbell, people in high profile positions or with status can’t do it yet. The CEO of a company, the mayor of a town or the owner of a small business may have it in their house, but they can’t tell anybody about it.

The future

It’s getting better though, Campbell says. The governor and attorney’s general office are openly, via the media, taking addiction on. On Jan. 8, Gov. John Kasich’s office came out with the “Start Talking” initiative to try and help communities in seven Ohio counties fight the opiate epidemic.

When those things happen, Tyler’s Light makes more sense. You just need to keep moving forward, Campbell says. You connect dots, and then you keep bumping into new and talented people who can help you.

How to reach: Tyler’s Light,

Twitter: @TylersLight