Dealing with a drug addiction can be a tough battle to fight. Whether you know what it’s like first-hand. or know someone who has dealt with substance abuse…there is a community conversation you might want to be a part of. News 8’s Sarah Thamer introduces us to its main speakers. Sarah? Last year I told you about two moms in our area who each had a child who dealt with a drug addiction. Today I met with two local dads. to hear *their* perspective on how hard it can be to raise a child struggling with addiction. They’ll be sharing their stories tomorrow night at a panel. in hopes of raising awareness and helping to get rid of the stigma. I cried like I never cried in my life that day. Bill Lenardson lost his son to drug addiction in 2009. I mean it was just the saddest saddest day. Tom Thompson watched his daughter *almost* lose her battle on a hospital bed 7 years ago. Our world collapsed. These two dads may have different stories, but their passion to help fight drug addiction comes from a similar place. No matter how bad it is, there are a lot of other people that have gone through the same thing. Bill’s son Chris started using drugs at the age of 12. He was an only child and lived in a loving and supportive home. He was a gifted, gifted athlete. But throughout all of his teen years, Chris didn’t know a life without drugs. What he struggled with, he was just trying to find a sense of normalcy and drugs and alcohol were the way to do that. When Chris lost his battle with addiction at the age of 24… Chris’s life was more than his addiction. It didn’t take long for Bill to help raise awareness. Tom says although his daughter is sober and still alive to share her story, everyday still feels like a miracle. Yes, it is. Both dads are now on a mission to help educate the public on drug addiction and mental health. They want people to know like any other disease, drugs can claim anyone. This isn’t just a bad person on drugs, it’s a brain disease and the more we get that word out, the more we get the stigma taken away from addiction, the more the community is going to understand and want to help ourselves. It touches everybody. Both dads I spoke with today say they’re also hoping to see more funding for better access of treatment. They’ll be speaking tomorrow at the Radisson Center in La Crosse from six thirty to eight thirty P-M. Thanks Sarah. A panel will also be available tomorrow to answer questions on resources and community services. Everyone is welcome to attend.