Former BMX pro Tony Hoffman spread his message of Heroin and drug awareness to about 600 people in the Collingswood Main Ballroom Monday night.
Hoffman inspired and brought some audience members to tears with his up-and-down story of fame, addiction, and triumph.
The now BMX coach explained to guests that kids begin to abuse drugs because they are tired of feeling alone. Hoffman abused marijuana in high school, prior to his eventual use of Cocaine, OxyContin, Heroin, and Vicodin.
Hoffman made his comments as the guest speaker during the county’s “Heroin, Pills. It All Kills,” program. The county put the program together in an effort to combat the growing epidemic that has plagued Camden County and much of southern New Jersey this year.
“We provided a much needed service to the people of Camden County. We struck a nerve on a serious issue,” Freeholder Louis Cappelli said.
Hoffman said none of his deceased friends started out snorting Cocaine or injecting Heroin. Instead, they started by smoking marijuana.
“Weed is making a step to opening up new problems.” Hoffman said. “The day you walk out the door towards drugs is the day your arms and legs get chained to a fence. A fence of addiction.”
The former magazine cover boy provided some very useful tips for parents who believe their child may be experimenting with Heroin or other drugs.
“The addict is a very good manipulator,” Hoffman said. “Parents must realize that they should stop giving their kids the tools to use drugs. When my parents came to see me in prison, I said thank you for kicking me out. I needed to suffer from the choices I was making.”
Hoffman lost all of his friends and lived on the streets after getting addicted to morphine pills and becoming a drug dealer.
“I saw kids come into my apartment and buy drugs with their parents’ credit cards, college refund checks, and weekly allowances,” he said.
The three signs that a child is addicted to Heroin or OxyContin are pin-point sized pupils, scratching, and slurred speech, Hoffman said. He made it clear that parents know when their child is acting differently, and they will feel that something needs to be addressed.
Hoffman is now the founder of the non-profit biking “Freewheel Project” in California that leads over 200 children away from the appeal of drugs.
“We’re not looking for the next Tony Hawk or great BMX biker,” Hoffman said. “We are making kids find meaning in life.”
Cappelli stated the event was just the first step in forming a community base against heroin and pills abuse. A task force will soon recommend when a potential next summit will be held.
The county will also launch a Public Service campaign, including announcements on local billboards.
A total of 35 Heroin overdoses were reported in Camden County in March.