WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — A Wichita couple overcame addiction and used their stories to create an organization for teens.
For 16 years, both Lynn and David Gilkey battled addiction. Lynn said traumatic experiences growing up had her looking for ways to cope.
“I learned to cope through addiction through drugs,” she said. “It started out as experimenting very young, and it just grew into an addiction, and it was a part of my life for 16 years.”
David began experimenting in college. He was kicked out his junior year.
“I ended up getting addicted to crack cocaine for 16 years,” he said.
Both spent time behind bars.
“I knew what addiction had got me,” Lynn said. “Addiction had got me a lot of chaos and a lot of loss.”
The chaos continued.
“Our house got raided in 2000,” David said. “The madness ended right there and we said enough is enough.”
“It was enough for me to want to change my life,” Lynn said.
After going through treatment centers, finding a mentor and a support group, the Gilkeys are now 21-years sober.
“Surround yourself with people that are trying to do the same thing that you are with just stay clean and sober,” Lynn said.
“We both made a promise to God that we dedicate our life to work with young people and here we are today,” David said.
That’s when they founded Rise Up For Youth. It’s a program built into some Wichita schools that works to keep teens out of gangs and focus on positive changes in their community.
“We’ve seen so many people that came through Rise Up for Youth, that’s out there doing great things,” David said.
Teens in the program visit prisons, talk with police, go to college visits, and talk with those coming out of incarceration.
“We want these young people to understand it’s real,” David said.
In 2017, tragedy struck in the Gilkey home. Their son Ryan died from a drug overdose.
“Unfortunately, Ryan lost his life,” Lynn said. “You sit back and you think, ‘Could we have done something? Could we have done more?’”
Lynn said she had a lot of doubt about moving forward with the program but then realized it’s the kids that need this the most.
“I don’t want another Ryan. I don’t, I don’t want another mother and father, brother or sister to go through the loss that we’ve gone through,” Lynn said. “Losing Ryan was hard but it motivated us even more, that these kids, they really need us.”
In the past six years, since the program started, 100% of their students have graduated high school. In addition, many have gone to college and have successful careers.
“When they first came, they were broken, now they’re doing great things and, and we’d like to say we played a little part,” David said.
The Gilkeys encourage teens to keep busy and find activities that give them a natural high.
Anyone can sign up. Enroll on the Rise Up For Youth website. There are two programs — one for males called the Brotherhood and one for females called Sisterhood.