We left Lexington in an early morning mist and set out on the drive to Catlettsburg, KY. Our final destination of the day would be Charleston, WV but we had scheduled a brief gavel hand-off at the new Boyd County Drug Court. The ride was nice and easy. We were joined by David who rode a beautiful Harley, and Michael Trent, a participant in the Lexington Drug Court. Michael carried the gavel for us and had brought along two brothers-in-law, Robert and Willis Buckler, who rode sport bikes and were clearly itching to open them up on the wide expanse of Route 64. With Michael in the lead we made good time and pulled into Catlettsburg a bit early.
The Boyd County District Drug Court in Catlettsburg is a relatively new program — they had their first graduation last week — but Judge Scott Reese is already building a strong coalition of support for the program. He was thrilled that All Rise America! was stopping through town because he wants the community to recognize that the effort underway in Boyd County is part of a larger network of successful Drug Courts all across the country. “When I was appointed to the bench I asked for a Drug Court because I felt it was a way to make a difference.”
After a couple interviews with local media we handed the gavel to Richard Howard. We had to get on the road and head across the state line into West Virginia to meet up with a delegation of riders who would escort us into Charleston, WV.
Richard rode us to the designated rest stop where we would meet our next group. They came in bunches, five at a time, three, six, ten, until soon there were almost sixty motorcycles surrounding our RV. It didn’t take long to find out who was responsible for organizing the incredible response. Harry Carpenter would be an imposing figure in a suit and tie, let alone the sleeveless leather vest and sun glasses he showed up in. Harry works in the Kanawha County Sheriff’s Department and does the home visits for the Charleston Drug Court. We soon learned that the bikers who had shown up were all retired or active law enforcement. Many rode with the Blue Knights Motorcycle Club. Their slogan: ‘There are no strangers, only friends you haven’t met.’ There was no better evidence of this than the warm reception they gave us in the rest stop outside of Charleston.
Once everyone had arrived and our police escort was in place we pulled out to make the short ride into town. Stretched out over a mile of highway with cars pulling over to let us go by, it was another awesome display. We arrived right on time to a crowd of cheering Drug Court participants and staff. Judge Jennifer Bailey greeted us and led us to a courtyard outside the courthouse where the team had arranged for a special community event featuring the Governor of West Virginia, Earl Ray Tomblin.
Flanked by news crews and dignitaries, Judge Bailey spoke about the importance of Drug Court to a community that has seen high rates of drug abuse for years. “We have people who have been restored to their families and their communities. They are in the workforce, they have gotten education whether it is a GED or in college, and they are getting vocational training. We are truly proud of our program and our participants.”
Governor Tomblin read a proclamation recognizing May as National Drug Court Month in West Virginia, stating “I encourage all citizens to recognize the significant contributions Drug Courts have made in reducing substance abuse, crime and recidivism while saving valuable resources.”
Adding impact to the Governor’s words were two graduates of the program, who each spoke passionately about their experience in the program. “I couldn’t wish to be any happier,” said one. “I never thought I would be here today; Drug Court showed me there is a beautiful life out there,” said the other.
The gavel was then handed from Judge Bailey to Governor Tomblin and to Harry, who would carry it for us out of town. Following the event we broke for a great meal, with Drug Court participants, graduates, family and staff eating together and enjoying the beautiful May afternoon.