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
  • 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)
Appointments, Additional Awards, Board Memberships
  • 2010 Distinguished Friend of Education Award- Connecticut Association of Schools – (March 2010)
  • League of Stamford Norwalk, Community Leadership Award – (April 2005)
  • 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)
Speaking Invitations
  • State Education Resource Center Summit Hosted by CT Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services- Systemic Opioid Prevention Efforts in Schools Summit – Cromwell, CT (September 27, 2019)
  • Keynote 20th Annual Loss and Trauma Conference- The Pain of Addiction – Worcester, MA (September 19, 2019)
  • Keynote for Arch Diocese of Boston Teacher Workshop – Braintree, MA (June 24, 2019)
  • 24th Annual Connecticut Alliance for Foster and Adoptive Families Conference – Stamford, CT (May 4, 2019)
  • Keynote Speaker- S. Department of Health and Human Services, “The Opioid Impact on Families and Children” ­– John F. Kennedy Federal Building, Boston, MA (September 12, 2018)
  • 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 (January 25, 2018)
  • State of Connecticut Judicial Branch Opioid Symposium II – Gateway Community College, New Haven, CT (November 3, 2017) 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 (October 26, 2017)
  • National Principals Conference and the National Principals of Secondary Schools Conference – Philadelphia, PA (July 7 – July 9)
  • Keynote Speaker at Connecticut Opioid Use, Addiction, Overdose and Treatment Conference for State of CT, Judicial Branch, Court Support Services Division – (June 9, 2017)
  • Connecticut Alliance of Foster and Adoptive Families 22nd Annual Conference – Trumbull, CT (May 5, 2017)
  • Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA) National Leadership Forum in Washington DC – Gaylord Conference Center (February 7, 2017)
  • National Narcotic Officers Association Coalition (NNOCA) – 325 New Jersey Ave. NW, Washington, DC (February 7, 2017)
  • Speaker- 21st Annual CT Associations of Foster & Adoptive Parents (CAFAP) Conference – Mashantucket, CT (May 13, 2016)
  • Keynote Speaker- Judicial Branch Opioid Symposium ICommission on Children Public Forum “Communities Convene on the Opioid & Heroin Crisis” – Gateway Community College, New Haven (April 14, 2016)
  • Speaker- Alliance for Safe Kids “Save a Life Forum 2016” – (April 3, 2016)
  • Speaker- Aware Recovery Care Shoreline Clinical Networking – Madison Beach Hotel, Madison, CT (June 26, 2015)
  • Speaker- Prescription Drug Abuse: Heroin Use and Overdose, Columbia – Greene Community College, Hudson, NY (June 10, 2015)
  • Speaker- “Safe School Summit” including parents and law enforcement Worcester District Attorney’s Office (54 towns), – Worcester, MA (May 28, 2015)
  • Speaker- 20th Annual CT Associations of Foster & Adoptive Parents (CAFAP) – Conference, Mystic, CT (May 1, 2015)
  • Speaker- Drugs, Alcohol, Teens, and Truth Panel Discussion – Tolland, CT (April 30, 2015)
  • Speaker- New England Educational Opportunity Association (NEOA) Annual Conference – Portsmouth, NH (April 1, 2015)
  • Speaker- The Mark S. Bertuch “Make a Difference Program,” – Boca Raton, FL (February 7, 2015)
  • Invited Speaker at the CADCA National Youth Conference (Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America) – Washington, DC (February 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2017)
  • Delivered over 50 presentations as a follow up to reading Sunny’s Story written by Ms. Katz to the Bridgeport CT Schools – (May-June 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019)
  • Speaker- Roundtable Discussion on the Heroin Epidemic & Use of Narcan – Fairfield, CT (July 10, 2014)
  • Speaker- Litchfield County Opiate Task Force – Torrington, CT (September 14, 2014)
  • Health Teachers Drug Prevention Training – Norwalk, CT (August 26, 2014)
  • “TRAIN THE TRAINER” New Facilitators Training for Courage to Speak – Courageous Parenting 101® – Plainville, CT (November 7, 2013)
  • Speaker- CADCA’s 23rd Annual National Leadership Forum – Washington, DC (February 5, 2013)
  • Keynote Speaker- Office of Norfolk/Canton, MA District Attorney with 28 town representatives – (October 18, 2012)
  • Speaker- Connecticut Association of Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance Convention – (November 16, 2012)
  • Speaker- Connecticut Association of Boards of Education and Public School Superintendents Convention – (November 17, 2012)
  • Speaker- National Summit on Rx Drug Abuse – Orlando, FL (April 9, 2012)
  • Speaker- Connecticut Association of Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance – (March 29, 2012)
  • Speaker- CADCA Forum 2012 Sponsored by SAMHSA the Courage to Speak Presentation Prevention Day – (February 6, 2012)
  • Speaker- Connecticut Education Association Summer Leadership Conference – (2011)
  • Speaker- Massachusetts Teachers Association Summer Conference – (2011)
  • Invited by Mayor’s Office Quincy MA to be Speaker at Quincy HS and No Quincy HS – (January 2011)
  • Speaker- Martinsville VA Community – (December 2010)
  • Speaker- Browne Gibbs Young Educational Campus – Washington, DC (December 2010)
  • Invited Speaker at Connecticut School Counselors Conference – (October 2010)
  • Optimus Health Care and the University of Bridgeport in association with transworld power productions. CFN TV show debut featuring Ginger Katz – (April 2009)
  • Keynote Speaker at the Wheeler Clinic – Connecticut (December 17, 2008)
  • Keynote Speaker at Quincy, MA Drug Symposium established by the Mayor of Quincy – (October 16, 2008)
  • Keynote Speaker at Yale University, sponsored by SAPN – (September 24, 2008)
  • Keynote Speaker at University of Florida, School of Addiction Medicine – (February 2008)
  • SpeakerJMATE Conference – Washington, DC (March 25, 2008)
  • Speaker- Prevention Not Punishment Conference – Washington, DC (June 2007)
  • Speaker at Optimus Health Care – formerly Bridgeport Community Health Center (June 2007)
  • Speaker at JMATE, Joint meeting on Adolescent Treatment – Washington, DC (April 2007)
  • Speaker at UCONN Providers Conference, plus Workshop Leader – Storrs, CT (May 10, 2006)
  • Speaker at Waterbury Alliance Doctors Group – Waterbury, CT (August 2006)
  • National Keynote at Circle Around Families Conference – Indiana (April 05, 2006)
  • Speaker at the National Narcotic Officers Associations – Washington, DC (February 13, 2006)
  • Keynote Speaker at the Connecticut PTA 105th Convention – (May 07, 2005)
  • Speaker at the CADCA National Youth Conference (Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America) – Washington, DC (January 2004 and January 2005)
  • 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) – (September 14, 2004)
  • Invitation from Senator Joseph Lieberman to lead a landmark symposium on the dangers of Ecstasy – Trumbull CT (2002)
  • Invitation to attend White House ceremony appointing John Walters “drug czar” – (2002).

National Media/Web Recognition

  • Interview with John Voket – Connoisseur Media (95.9 Fox, Star 99.9, Webe 108, WICC) – (February 2019)
  • Interview with WSHU Radio – (February 2019)
  • Interview with Nia Hamm on Hartford Fox 8 News – (April 17, 2018)
  • Interview with Sarah Cody on News Channel 8 – (February 14, 2018)
  • Interview with Bill O’Reilly on The O’Reilly Factor on Fox News – (June 7, 2013)
  • 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 – (December 2007)
  • National spokesperson for the National Parent Vigil – Washington, DC (June 8, 2006)
  • Wrote newspaper column in The Hour – Norwalk, CT (2005 to 2006)
  • Interviewed for law enforcement training film shown nationally in 2004. Produced by Multi-jurisdictional Counterdrug Task Force – Jupiter, FL (February 14, 2004)
  • NPR Radio, Interview with Ms. Katz – (2007)
  • 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 – (May/June 2003)
  • Produced “The Courage to Speak Video” (25-minute and 6-minute versions and 30 second PSA). New video in development – (2012)
  • Current Health Magazine Interview, distributed to all schools in U.S. – (October 2003)
  • CT and NY Family Magazine – (December 2003)
  • Produced Drug Prevention P.S.A. Feature shown in Crown Movie Theaters, CT Cablevision, Lifetime for Women, MTV and other channels – (2002 to present)
  • Featured on websites of the White House Office of Drug Control Policy, (ONDCP) and the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) – (May 2003 to present)
  • “Meet the Leaders” Show on Cablevision of CT – (June 2005)
  • Authored article on “The Courage To Speak” for Principal Leadership Magazine – (February 2003)
  • Feature on Education Notebook, Cablevision of CT – (2005 to present)

Additional Speaking Invitations from National Conventions and Forums

  • Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA) National Leadership Forum – Washington, DC (December 2002, January 2005, 2006, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2017)
  • National Narcotic Officers Association Coalition (NNOCA) – 325 New Jersey Ave. NW, Washington, DC (February 7, 2017)
  • Keynote Speaker at the Narcotic Enforcement Officers Association (NEOA) Annual Conference – Newport, RI (November 16, 2004) and Washington, DC (April 07, 2006)
  • Keynote Speaker at the Connecticut PTA 105th Convention – (May 07, 2005)
  • Speaker- the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA), and feature story in November 2004 newsletter – (October 22, 2004)
  • Speaker- Connecticut Association of Schools Annual Winter Conference. High school and middle school principals’ professional organization – (January 28, 2004)
  • 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 – (October 30, 2003)
  • Texas Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention Convention – (November 2003)
  • The New England Governors Summit, Faneuil Hall Boston, MA. Invited by the Office of the President, Office of National Drug Control Policy – (October 8, 2003)
  • Speaker- Pride International – Ohio (2002 to 2003)
  • Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention – Washington, DC (February 2002)
  • KeynoteNational Association of Drug Court Professionals – Reno, NV (January 2002)
  • 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 2001 and 2002; Pride International.

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 – (August 2015)
  • Second Place, Saratoga Springs, NY, Head of the Fish, Women’s Four Boat – (October 2013)
  • Silver and Bronze Medallist, U.S. Rowing masters national Championship – Cherry Hill, NJ (August 2010)
  • Gold Medalist – Narragansett, RI (July 2010)
  • Gold and Silver Medallist, US Rowing National Masters Championship – (August 2009)
  • Gold Medalist, Carnegie Lake Regatta – Princeton, NJ, (June 2009)
  • Invited to the Head of the Charles Regatta Boston, MA – second place grand masters women’s four boat – (October 2008)
  • Bronze Medalist – Naragasset, MA Sweeps and Sculls, RI (July 2006)
  • Gold Medalist, Howard Diamond States – Regatta, DL (July 2005)
  • Silver and Bronze Medalist, U.S. Rowing Masters National Championship – Massachusetts (August 2005)
  • Silver Medalist, Mystic Seaport – Regatta, CT (September 2005)
  • Invited with her crewing team to the “Head of the Charles Regatta” – (2003 to 2004)
  • Founder and Captain, “The Hot Shots,” CT’s Senior Olympic Women’s Basketball Team, ranked 7th in U.S. – (2000 to 2005)
  • Gold Medalist, Connecticut Senior Games – basketball, tennis, running – (2000 to 2005)
  • Silver Medalist, S. Rowing Masters National Championship – Kansas (August 1998)

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Ian James Eaccarino

Ian James Eaccarino
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