On March 27, 2018, Portage Atlantic Board members were on hand at the Nashwaaksis Lions Club meeting and presented a commemorative plaque to the Club members in honour of “A DREAM” come true.
The desire to help occurred during his years of volunteering as a hockey coach, when Lion Ronald Evans was made aware that some adolescents were encountering drugs and alcohol problems at an early age and that many were in need of help. He and the Lions were determined to act.
In 1984, members of the Nashwaaksis Lions Club started the Lions’ Huggy Youth Program: “Try Hugs not Drugs”, to raise awareness about the dangers of drugs and alcohol in area schools. That same year at a game in Halifax, NS, the Lions’ Huggy mascot was able to have a picture taken with NHL star player, Wayne Gretzky. The photo helped to promote the Huggy Youth program.
The members of the Nashwaaksis Lions Clubs and concerned members of the community soon realised that more had to be done for youth with substance abuse problems. It was a dream of the Lions clubs to have a youth drug treatment centre in New Brunswick and they continued the momentum of hard work and determination for several years. The Portage Atlantic bilingual residential rehabilitation treatment centre became a reality in December 1996.
Over the years, the Nashwaaksis Lions Club, the District N-1 Lions Clubs and Lions International have made a significant financial contribution and the Lions continue to render their support to Portage Atlantic programs and services.
The Portage Atlantic facility sits on 164 acres on the shores of Cassidy Lake near Sussex New Brunswick and includes a new centre built in 2010; a Recovery Trail in 2013, and the Lewis Fitness Centre officially opened in 2017.
At the heart of the programs and services are the 2100 plus Atlantic youth who have come through the doors at Portage Atlantic over the years to overcome their dependencies and live healthy and productive lives.
In November 2017, Lions’ Huggy had the pleasure to again meet with Wayne Gretzky, “The Great One”, and renew the photo taken 33 years ago – a time of recollection for all involved.
The plaque features photos of Wayne Gretzky with the Huggy mascot (1984 and 2017) and aerial shots of the Cassidy Lake Centre (1996 and 2017).
Photo: Dr. Russell King, Chairman, Portage Atlantic Board of Directors, Lion Ronald Evans, Nashwaaksis Lions Club and Portage Atlantic Board member; Lion Ed Evans, President, Nashwaaksis Lions Club; Dave Emmerson, Portage Atlantic Board member and co-chair of the Portage Atlantic Lewis Fitness Centre Capital Campaign and Lion Bill Scott, Nashwaaksis Lions Club.