Health Care

‘Survivor’ Contestant Seeks Support for ‘Warriors of Purpose’

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – A former contestant on CBS’s “Survivor” was in town Thursday to promote his initiative to address substance abuse and related mental health issues by targeting young people.

Rodney Lavoie Jr., who appeared on the show’s 30th season in 2015, is CEO of Warriors of Purpose. The organization connects young people with reality-show stars like Lavoie, other public figures and trained health professionals to help them address the issues that lead to drug use and other issues such as depression, bullying and self-harm.

We want to get to the beginning stage,” Lavoie said. “We want to create a community of education, awareness, perception, but in a raw, authentic way.”

Personalities who have appeared on shows like “Survivor” and “Big Brother” are often able to better relate to young people than a traditional drug enforcement officer trying to reach out to them, he said. Lavoie has enlisted other reality show personalities to join him to reach out to young people via personal appearances and online resources.

Lavoie spoke at Thursday’s meeting of the Mahoning County Board of Commissioners and later met with members of the Mahoning County Mental Health & Recovery Board. He addressed plans to stage an event at the Covelli Centre featuring boxing matches and talks by various presenters including celebrities and others who simply want to share their stories. The event is tentatively scheduled for May 5.

When we come together, we can change lives,” he said.

Warriors of Purpose is seeking grants and other funding to stage the event. Any money raised from the event would be spent to address local issues, he said. He did not make a specific pitch for funds to either board.

This was just for them to get their message out,” said Duane Piccirilli, executive director of the Mahoning County Mental Health & Recovery Board.

At the commissioners meeting, Lavoie, a Boston native, shared his own experiences with trauma. A year before going on “Survivor,” his sister died from a drug overdose and during his stint on the show, his weight went from 196 pounds to 147 pounds and he returned home with parasites, liver and pancreas failure, anxiety, depression and post traumatic distress disorder.

Let’s just say I went through the wringer,” he said. “It absolutely changed my life. It cracked me open.”

Pictured at top: Rodney Lavoie Jr. addresses the Mahoning County Board of Commissioners.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.