By CHRISTY ARMSTRONG
On Point, a Chattanooga-based nonprofit organization which helps youth in local schools, shared its work with the community during its annual Cleveland …
On Point, a Chattanooga-based nonprofit organization which helps youth in local schools, shared its work with the community during its annual Cleveland fundraising dinner Thursday at First Baptist Church.
The event also featured Rory Feek, who was half of Grammy Award-winning country music duo Joey+Rory.
Staff with On Point shared how they help area youth learn how to make good decisions in the midst of tough times. Feek shared how he endured the tough loss of his wife, Joey, who died of cancer last year.
“We work diligently for our students to know we know their name, that someone cares about them and how they are doing,” said Amy Pearson, president of On Point.
Such relationships are key to helping teens through tough times, she said. Feek similarly described how support from friends and fans alike has helped him through his devastating loss.
On Point supports students by offering extracurricular programs in area middle and high schools. Its three programs — Think On Point, Life On Point and Graduate On Point — emphasize topics such as the importance of resisting peer pressure, living healthy lifestyles and making good choices.
While Pearson noted these programs do teach students valuable lessons, she noted students have said the biggest differences have been made by caring adult volunteers. Not everybody has someone they can turn to when life gets tough.
“Unfortunately, many, many of our teens are dealing with much pain,” said Pearson.
Pearson emphasized the importance of surrounding students with support by having local leaders “assault” a student with crumpled pieces of paper. On these pages were written things like “depression,” “sexual abuse,” “mom’s drug addiction,” “a caregiver’s sickness” and more.
Another group of adults stood around the student to help deflect or soften the blows of these negative experiences. Pearson challenged the adults at the dinner to join On Point’s efforts to support local youth as they navigate life’s challenges.
“We hear over and over again our students saying, ‘I just feel so alone.’ ... Just a little love goes far. Just like water in a desert, it makes a difference,” said Pearson.
On Point has been in operation for 26 years, and its staff and volunteers have worked with close to 260,000 area youth. More financial support and volunteers are always needed. Those interested in helping can visit https://liveonpoint.org/.
Later, Feek shared his story. Many people know him because of the success he and his wife found performing as Joey+Rory, and because of his songwriting.
However, he is also known for the messages of faith he shared as his wife battled, and ultimately died from, cancer. He writes a blog, ThisLifeILive.com, which tells their story, and has written a memoir, "This Life I Live: One Man’s Extraordinary, Ordinary Life and the Woman Who Changed It Forever."
Even as he continues to grieve, Feek said he has been able to receive much support from others — even total strangers who know him more for Joey’s health battle than his music.
“Do you know what a gift that is?” Feek asked.
He shared how he and his wife took a break from music, had a baby with Down’s syndrome, and found out not too long later Joey had cancer. He also shared a little bit of his music.
Feek also spoke of how he has learned to think of life as one long, epic story, through both good times and bad. Even the most tragic moments are part of this story.
“Our days and our weeks and our years are not random, unconnected things,” Feek said. “They are real events that happen in real time, that tell a story. ... For most of my life, I did not realize my life was telling a story.”
He said it took him “a long, long time” to realize he was writing his own story and had the power to influence parts of it. Feek challenged his audience to make the most of life and to make sure they are living good stories.
Those who live good stories can help others do the same, he added. He asked his audience to ponder whether they had any good role models when they were younger. Feek said he did not, so he “had to look for some.”
“We may not think anyone is paying attention to our story, but they are, especially our children,” Feek said.
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