Sunny’s Story

Sunny's Story

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Sunny's Story, written by Ginger Katz is a drug prevention book for all ages. It is a compelling story for children, teenagers, parents, grandparents, teachers and more. Sunny’s Story tells of joyful times and sad times, and of how a dog’s best friend was needlessly lost to drug abuse.

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It is narrated through the eyes, ears and mind of Sunny, the family beagle. The story tells the ups and downs of life with his young master Ian, beginning with their meeting at an animal shelter, and ending with a futile effort to ward off disaster

Sunny's Story is read at many dinner tables across the country, in schools, libraries, as part of Courage to Speak® Drug Prevention Curricula for elementary, middle and high school students as well as a standalone book for children of all ages, parents, grandparents, teachers and professionals in the field of treatment and prevention.

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VIRGINIA (“GINGER”) KATZ

CEO and Founder, The Courage To Speak® Foundation, Inc.

Mission:  Saving lives by empowering youth to be drug-free and encouraging parents to communicate effectively with their children about the dangers of drugs. Founded in 1996 shortly after Ginger and Larry Katz lost their son, Ian, to a drug overdose. They are dedicated to fulfilling a promise Ginger made to Ian to do everything in her power to prevent this tragedy from happening to another family.

Core Activities:   Educational presentations, proprietary school-based programs/curriculum delivering social-emotional skill building lessons to increase youth’s ability to live healthy lives, parenting programs/curriculum, books and videos that empower students and their parents to break through the silence and denial surrounding substance abuse to honestly communicate about the dangers of alcohol and other drugs.

Major Accomplishments

  • Delivered approximately 1000 prevention presentations nationwide to schools (elementary through college), civic organizations, law enforcement forums, medical forums, provider and prevention organizations, corporations, conventions, conferences and other forums throughout the country.
  • Developed the Courage to Speak Drug Prevention Curriculum for High Schools. Fourteen lesson curriculum taught by health class teachers. This program was developed by the Courage to Speak® Foundation with a team of experts in prevention and curriculum development. Includes new lessons on marijuana and vaping.
  • Developed the Courage to Speak Drug Prevention Curriculum for Middle Schools.  Sixteen lesson curriculum plus two booster lessons taught by health class teachers and language art teachers accompanied by Sunny’s Story. This program was developed by the Courage to Speak® Foundation with a team of experts in prevention and curriculum development. Includes new lessons on marijuana and vaping.
  • Developed the Courage to Speak Prevention Curriculum accompanied by Sunny’s Story for Elementary SchoolsTaught by language art and health teachers for Grades 4-6.  This program was developed by the Courage to Speak® Foundation with a team of experts in prevention and curriculum development. Includes new lessons on marijuana and vaping.
  • Developed the Courage to Speak Drug Prevention Education for After School Programs accompanied by Sunny’s Story for students in Grades 4-6. Adapted from the Courage to Speak Drug Prevention Curriculum for Elementary Schools. Four Sessions.
  • Developed the Courage to Speak Drug Prevention Parenting Curriculum Courage to Speak – Courageous Parenting 101®: A multi-session course implemented by Courage to Speak® Foundation trained facilitators as a follow up to the Courage to Speak Presentation and/or video. To date, over 151 instructors have been trained to teach this course in English and Spanish. This program was developed by the Courage to Speak® Foundation with a team of experts in prevention. Offered free to parents.
  • Developed the a single session program for parents, Courage to Speak Courageous Parenting 101, “Parenting Through the Opioid Crisis” program, delivered by Ginger Katz and a trained facilitator in the field of substance abuse, helping parents navigate through the opioid crisis. Also known as a Double Dose of Prevention
  • Adapted the Courage to Speak Courageous Parenting 101,Parenting Through the Opioid Crisis” program to an Online Parent Training Module, accessible from anywhere at any time from the Courage to Speak website, www.couragetospeak.org. Parents will have the ability to login to our platform and complete a skills-based training on their own schedule. Through video lessons, informative presentations, handouts and interactive activities, parents learn the knowledge and skills they need to keep their children safe from drug use
  • Authored Children’s and Parenting Book, called Sunny’s Story- A Drug Prevention Book, a compelling story for children, teenagers, parents, grandparents, educators and more. It tells of joyful times and sad times and of how a dog’s best friend was needlessly lost to drugs. Narrated by the family beagle who tried to wake Ginger up the night Ian died. It is read at dinner tables across the country, as part of The Courage to Speak Drug Prevention Curriculum and as a stand-alone book in many schools.
  • Authored Story: A Mother’s Promise to her Son, October, 2014 in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Find Your Inner Strength.
  • Authored Story: A Mother’s Promise to her Son, 2016 in Simply Happy: A Crash Course in Chicken Soup for the Soul Advice and Wisdom
  • Launched website, www.couragetospeak.org. Information clearinghouse
  • Created the Courage to Speak Support Group. A lifeline for parents who have lost children to substance abuse (est. 2000). Established in 2009, a support group for family members who have young and adult children that are using drugs.
  • The Courage to Speak Empowering Youth to Be Drug Free Family Night 2005–2019. Exciting event involving all aspects of the community. Parents, children, community leaders, state and local officials, law enforcement, clergy, business men and women to engage the home, school and community and join together to make a stand to empower youth to be drug free. Featuring the work of the students who participate in The Courage to Speak Drug Prevention Curriculum (grades 4, 5, 6 and 7th).
  • Coordinated “The Courage to Speak All-Star Basketball Classic” 2000-2005. Community sporting event shown on local and national television.

Major Awards, Appointments, and Speaking Invitations

Major Awards
  • The Sweet Mother Founder’s Award 2015 for dedication of saving lives
  • Norwalk Public Schools Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day Committee 2011 Citizenship Award in recognition of the exemplary vision, leadership and commitment to Norwalk students and community
  • Bank of America 2010 Local Heroes Award
  • Connecticut Association of Schools, 2010 Distinguished Friend of Education Award, the highest award given by Association to individual not directly involved in public education; nominated by CT principals.
  • 2010 Distinguished Friend of Education Award- Connecticut Association of Schools (March 2010), given to one person or organization each year.
  • Hartford Business Journal, 2010 Nonprofit Heroes – Advocate of the Year Award for outstanding achievement and service.
  • In 2008, the Courage to Speak ® Foundation received the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) Service to Science Award to enhance the evaluation capacity of the innovative and promising programs.
  • Nominated by the State of Connecticut Department of Mental Health & Addiction Services – (2008)
  • Honorary Chair of the Parent National Vigil (Ms. Katz suggestion to the Chief Administrator of DEA) – Washington, DC (June 8, 2006)
  • 2005 Community Leadership Award of the Junior League of Stamford – Norwalk.
  • Prevention Works Award recipient at Federal Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) Museum in New York City with former NY City, Mayor Guliliani. Jointly presented by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and the S. Dept. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) – (October 6, 2004)
  • President’s “Daily Points of Light “ Award – (February 2003)
  • “Courage to Speak Day.” Statewide proclamation by CT Governor Jody Rell – (October 20, 2005)
  • “Telly” Award and Worldfest Houston Award for The Courage to Speak video – (August 2003)
  • Connecticut’s “Woman of the Year.” The Connecticut Post – (December 2000)
Speaking Invitations
  • The Commission on Women, Children, Seniors, Equity & Opportunity In Partnership with the Department Of Mental Health And Addiction Services Hosts the Courage to Speak®- COURAGEOUS PARENTING101 “Protecting Youth Through the Opioid Crisis and Beyond” Online Parent Training Module Event & Panel Discussion with DMHAS Commissioner Miriam E. Delphin-Rittmon, Ph.D., State Senator Bob Duff, Executive Director of Commission on Women, Children and Seniors Steven Herenandez, Ginger Katz, Founder of the Courage to Speak Foundation, Carlos Reinoso Jr., Manager at CCAR, Nicole Hampton, Peer Engagement Specialist at Norwalk Hospital/Nuvance Health – Online Facebook Live, CT Network, Zoom Meeting
  • The HUB hosted the Courage to Speak®- Courageous Parenting 101 ‘Parenting Through the Opioid Crisis and Beyond’ Online Parent Training Module – Online Zoom Meeting
  • Fairfield Cares hosted the Courage to Speak®- Courageous Parenting 101 ‘Parenting Through the Opioid Crisis and Beyond’ Online Parent Training Module – Online Zoom Meeting
  • State Education Resource Center Summit Hosted by CT Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services- Systemic Opioid Prevention Efforts in Schools Summit – Cromwell, CT
  • Keynote 20th Annual Loss and Trauma Conference- The Pain of Addiction – Worcester, MA
  • Keynote for Arch Diocese of Boston Teacher Workshop – Braintree, MA
  • 24th Annual Connecticut Alliance for Foster and Adoptive Families Conference – Stamford, CT
  • Keynote Speaker- S. Department of Health and Human Services, “The Opioid Impact on Families and Children” ­– John F. Kennedy Federal Building, Boston, MA
  • Keynote Speaker- CT Department of Corrections- Health and Addiction Services presenting “Courage to Speak- Courageous Parenting 101®-“Parenting Through the Opioid Crisis and Beyond”™
  • Keynote Speaker at The Commission on Women and Children Hartford Opioid Forum – Legislative Office Building, Hartford, CT
  • State of Connecticut Judicial Branch Opioid Symposium II – Gateway Community College, New Haven, CT New program delivery “Courage to Speak® Courageous Parenting 101-“Parenting Through the Opioid Crisis and Beyond”™
  • South Carolina School Boards Association Risky Business Convention – Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
  • National Principals Conference and the National Principals of Secondary Schools Conference – Philadelphia, PA
  • Keynote Speaker at Connecticut Opioid Use, Addiction, Overdose and Treatment Conference for State of CT, Judicial Branch, Court Support Services Division
  • Connecticut Alliance of Foster and Adoptive Families 22nd Annual Conference – Trumbull, CT
  • Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA) National Leadership Forum in Washington DC – Gaylord Conference Center
  • National Narcotic Officers Association Coalition (NNOCA) – 325 New Jersey Ave. NW, Washington, DC
  • Speaker- 21st Annual CT Associations of Foster & Adoptive Parents (CAFAP) Conference – Mashantucket, CT
  • Keynote Speaker- Judicial Branch Opioid Symposium ICommission on Children Public Forum “Communities Convene on the Opioid & Heroin Crisis” – Gateway Community College, New Haven
  • Speaker- Alliance for Safe Kids “Save a Life Forum” 
  • Speaker- Aware Recovery Care Shoreline Clinical Networking – Madison Beach Hotel, Madison, CT
  • Speaker- Prescription Drug Abuse: Heroin Use and Overdose, Columbia – Greene Community College, Hudson, NY
  • Speaker- “Safe School Summit” including parents and law enforcement Worcester District Attorney’s Office (54 towns), – Worcester, MA
  • Speaker- 20th Annual CT Associations of Foster & Adoptive Parents (CAFAP) – Conference, Mystic, CT
  • Speaker- Drugs, Alcohol, Teens, and Truth Panel Discussion – Tolland, CT
  • Speaker- New England Educational Opportunity Association (NEOA) Annual Conference – Portsmouth, NH
  • Speaker- The Mark S. Bertuch “Make a Difference Program,” – Boca Raton, FL
  • Invited Speaker at the CADCA National Youth Conference (Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America) – Washington, DC
  • Delivered over 50 presentations as a follow up to reading Sunny’s Story written by Ms. Katz to the Bridgeport CT Schools
  • Speaker- Roundtable Discussion on the Heroin Epidemic & Use of Narcan – Fairfield, CT
  • Speaker- Litchfield County Opiate Task Force – Torrington, CT
  • Health Teachers Drug Prevention Training – Norwalk, CT
  • “TRAIN THE TRAINER” New Facilitators Training for Courage to Speak – Courageous Parenting 101® – Plainville, CT
  • Speaker- CADCA’s 23rd Annual National Leadership Forum – Washington, DC
  • Keynote Speaker- Office of Norfolk/Canton, MA District Attorney with 28 town representatives 
  • Speaker- Connecticut Association of Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance Convention 
  • Speaker- Connecticut Association of Boards of Education and Public School Superintendents Convention 
  • Speaker- National Summit on Rx Drug Abuse – Orlando, FL
  • Speaker- Connecticut Association of Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance
  • Speaker- CADCA Forum 2012 Sponsored by SAMHSA the Courage to Speak Presentation Prevention Day
  • Speaker- Connecticut Education Association Summer Leadership Conference 
  • Speaker- Massachusetts Teachers Association Summer Conference 
  • Invited by Mayor’s Office Quincy MA to be Speaker at Quincy HS and No Quincy HS 
  • Speaker- Martinsville VA Community 
  • Speaker- Browne Gibbs Young Educational Campus – Washington, DC
  • Invited Speaker at Connecticut School Counselors Conference 
  • Optimus Health Care and the University of Bridgeport in association with transworld power productions. CFN TV show debut featuring Ginger Katz
  • Keynote Speaker at the Wheeler Clinic – Connecticut
  • Keynote Speaker at Quincy, MA Drug Symposium established by the Mayor of Quincy
  • Keynote Speaker at Yale University, sponsored by SAPN
  • Keynote Speaker at University of Florida, School of Addiction Medicine
  • SpeakerJMATE Conference – Washington, DC
  • Speaker- Prevention Not Punishment Conference – Washington, DC
  • Speaker at Optimus Health Care – formerly Bridgeport Community Health Center
  • Speaker at JMATE, Joint meeting on Adolescent Treatment – Washington, DC
  • Speaker at UCONN Providers Conference, plus Workshop Leader – Storrs, CT
  • Speaker at Waterbury Alliance Doctors Group – Waterbury, CT
  • National Keynote at Circle Around Families Conference – Indiana
  • Speaker at the National Narcotic Officers Associations – Washington, DC
  • Keynote Speaker at the Connecticut PTA 105th Convention
  • Speaker at the CADCA National Youth Conference (Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America) – Washington, DC
  • Invited by the Drug Enforcement Agency to speak, along with former New York City mayor Rudolf Giuliani, at opening of DEA Museum’s drug prevention exhibit, “Target America,” in Times Square. Other presenters: John Walters, Drug Czar, Karen Tandy, DEA Administrator and Beverly Watts Davis of US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
  • Invitation from Senator Joseph Lieberman to lead a landmark symposium on the dangers of Ecstasy – Trumbull CT
  • Invitation to attend White House ceremony appointing John Walters “drug czar”.

National Media/Web Recognition

  • Interview with John Voket – Connoisseur Media (95.9 Fox, Star 99.9, Webe 108, WICC)
  • Interview with WSHU Radio
  • Interview with Nia Hamm on Hartford Fox 8 News 
  • Interview with Sarah Cody on News Channel 8 
  • Interview with Bill O’Reilly on The O’Reilly Factor on Fox News
  • Invited to the White House for a press conference for a report of national drug use and recognition of the Courage to Speak Foundation work
  • National spokesperson for the National Parent Vigil – Washington, DC
  • Wrote newspaper column in The Hour – Norwalk, CT
  • Interviewed for law enforcement training film shown nationally. Produced by Multi-jurisdictional Counterdrug Task Force – Jupiter, FL
  • NPR Radio, Interview with Ms. Katz
  • Featured in prominent media outlets: The New York Times, New York- Daily News, Washington Times, Boston Herald, Hartford Courant, NBC-TV, NBA Inside Stuff, Lifetime for Women, MSNBC, Cablevision of CT, CPTV, CT Post, The Hour, The Advocate, The Norwalk Citizen News, Yes Network, Cox Radio Station, WEBE 108 in Fairfield County – Women in Sports, Madison Square Garden, SportsDesk MSG Network.
  • BBC News Broadcast
  • Produced “The Courage to Speak Video” (25-minute and 6-minute versions and 30 second PSA). New video in development
  • Current Health Magazine Interview, distributed to all schools in U.S.
  • CT and NY Family Magazine 
  • Produced Drug Prevention P.S.A. Feature shown in Crown Movie Theaters, CT Cablevision, Lifetime for Women, MTV and other channels
  • Featured on websites of the White House Office of Drug Control Policy, (ONDCP) and the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) 
  • “Meet the Leaders” Show on Cablevision of CT
  • Authored article on “The Courage To Speak” for Principal Leadership Magazine
  • Feature on Education Notebook, Cablevision of CT 

Additional Speaking Invitations from National Conventions and Forums

  • Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA) National Leadership Forum – Washington, DC
  • National Narcotic Officers Association Coalition (NNOCA) – 325 New Jersey Ave. NW, Washington, DC
  • Keynote Speaker at the Narcotic Enforcement Officers Association (NEOA) Annual Conference – Newport, RI (November 16, 2004) and Washington, DC
  • Keynote Speaker at the Connecticut PTA 105th Convention
  • Speaker- the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA), and feature story in November 2004 newsletter
  • Speaker- Connecticut Association of Schools Annual Winter Conference. High school and middle school principals’ professional organization
  • Press Conference and Forum at Yale School of Medicine. Invitation from the Office of National Drug Control Policy.
  • The ONDCP Summit, Washington DC. Invited by John P. Walters, Drug Czar
  • Texas Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention Convention
  • The New England Governors Summit, Faneuil Hall Boston, MA. Invited by the Office of the President, Office of National Drug Control Policy
  • Speaker- Pride International 
  • Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention – Washington, DC
  • KeynoteNational Association of Drug Court Professionals – Reno, NV
  • Keynote, Atlanta, GA– Parent Corp, National Association of Independent Schools, New York; National Association of Secondary School Principals, San Diego, CADCA Leadership Forum, Washington, DC; Pride International.

Additional Awards, Appointments, Board Memberships

  • 2010 Distinguished Friend of Education Award- Connecticut Association of Schools (March 2010)
  • League of Stamford Norwalk, Community Leadership Award – 04/05
  • Executive Committee of FAST in CT – Families Advocating for Treatment in CT
  • Award for Community Service. Seventh Day Adventist Church(June 2002)
  • “Celebrate Women” Award. Honoree of Norwalk Women’s Professional Organization – (2002)
  • Board Member, Connecticut Communities for Drug-Free Youth – (1997 to 2003)
  • Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. Partnership Council and Standing Committee of Connecticut – (2000 to 2002)
  • Center for Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA), Columbia University Task Force Member – (1999 to 2000)
  • Community Service Award. Toughlove International(January 1999)
  • Member, Connecticut Community for Addiction Recovery (CCAR) – (1997 to 2006)
  • Member, Mid-Fairfield Substance Abuse Coalition – (1997 to present)
  • Member, Community Prevention Task Force of Norwalk – (1997 to present)
  • Member, Kiwanis Club of Norwalk – (2001 to 2004)
  • Norwalk Planning Commissioner – (1994 to 2002)

Athletic Achievements

(Note: The Courage to Speak Foundation empowers young people to find their passion in life as an alternative to using alcohol and other drugs. Ginger Katz models this through her athletic achievements and very positive, motivational presentations).

  • Second Place, Silver Medal, Camden, NJ, US Masters Nationals, Women’s 8+ Boat 
  • Second Place, Saratoga Springs, NY, Head of the Fish, Women’s Four Boat
  • Silver and Bronze Medallist, U.S. Rowing masters national Championship 
  • Gold Medalist – Narragansett, RI
  • Gold and Silver Medallist, US Rowing National Masters Championship 
  • Gold Medalist, Carnegie Lake Regatta – Princeton, NJ
  • Invited to the Head of the Charles Regatta Boston, MA – second place grand masters women’s four boat
  • Bronze Medalist – Naragasset, MA Sweeps and Sculls, RI
  • Gold Medalist, Howard Diamond States – Regatta, DL
  • Silver and Bronze Medalist, U.S. Rowing Masters National Championship – Massachusetts
  • Silver Medalist, Mystic Seaport – Regatta, CT
  • Invited with her crewing team to the “Head of the Charles Regatta”
  • Founder and Captain, “The Hot Shots,” CT’s Senior Olympic Women’s Basketball Team, ranked 7th in U.S.
  • Gold Medalist, Connecticut Senior Games – basketball, tennis, running
  • Silver Medalist, S. Rowing Masters National Championship – Kansas

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Ian James Eaccarino

Ian James Eaccarino
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