Penn-Trafford SADD, Sage’s Army team up to raise overdose awareness at Friday football game |

Penn-Trafford SADD, Sage’s Army team up to raise overdose awareness at Friday football game

Patrick Varine

Before the festivities surrounding Friday night’s football game against Plum, members of the Penn-Trafford Students Against Destructive Decisions chapter struck a more somber note.

The students, in partnership with addiction awareness group Sage’s Army, released 174 balloons in memory of the Westmoreland County residents who died of drug overdoses in 2016.

“It’s all about education, awareness and prevention,” said Sage’s Army founder Carmen Capozzi of Irwin, whose 19-year-old son, Sage, died in 2012 of a drug overdose.

So far in 2017, 66 people have died of overdoses in Westmore­land, with another 49 suspected pending confirmation, according to the Westmoreland County coroner.

“We have an opioid crisis that’s destroying families,” Capozzi said. “Something has to change.”

Members of the high school’s SADD club hope to be part of that change.

“We had our first meeting of the year this week, and 115 students signed up,” said faculty club sponsor and teacher Kim Stefkovich of Greensburg. “This is the first year we’ve had more than 100 members.”

This marks the second year for the pregame awareness ceremony. High school principal Tony Aquilio said holding it under the Friday night lights was the perfect location.

“To use an event like a football game, where you have thousands of guests and spectators, is extremely powerful,” Aquilio said. “They’re here to watch the game, but we have their full attention at that point, and it’s an important tool to help get the message out to people.”

That message was made loud and clear through the stadium’s PA system as the ceremony ended.

“It’s simple,” announcer P.J. Downs said. “True Warriors are drug-free.”

Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at [email protected], 724-850-2862 or via Twitter @MurrysvilleStar.

Patrick Varine | Tribune-Review
Floating above Warrior Stadium, 174 balloons released by Penn-Trafford High School's Students Against Destructive Decisions and Sage's Army represent Westmoreland County's 2016 overdose victims before the school's Sept. 8, 2017, football game.
Patrick Varine | Tribune-Review
Members of the Penn-Trafford High School chapter of Students Against Destructive Decisions and Sage's Army prepare to release 174 balloons before the Sept. 8, 2017, football game against Plum.
Patrick Varine | Tribune-Review
Senior cheerleaders and SADD club members Olivia Wentroble, Kelsey Lane and Karlee Goldman wait to release their balloons on Friday, Sept. 8, 2017.
Patrick Varine | Tribune-Review
Members of the Penn-Trafford High School chapter of Students Against Destructive Decisions and Sage's Army wait to take the field before the football game on Friday, Sept. 8, 2017.
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