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Event supports StrongWILL scholarship

It was a bright and sunny day in Driver on Saturday, when about 55 registered participants took off on the trail for the first StrongWILL Charity Scholarship Fund Run.

For April Brooks, founder of the StrongWILL Charity, it was like her brother, William “Doug” West, was shining down on her.

“I think he would be proud,” Brooks said prior to the start of the one-mile run. “I think he’d be beaming and smiling. I think he’d love the awareness out there and the fact we’re actually doing something to help those that do struggle.”

Brooks founded the organization in honor of her brother after he died in April 2016 from a heroin overdose. The organization brings awareness to addiction, helps those in recovery and helps support those affected and those helping them.

The organization has held runs in October during Driver Days before, but this was its first time raising money for a scholarship. The organization’s first scholarships will be given this year, and applications are due soon.

Participants took off on the Driver trail running and walking, some with children and dogs walking beside them and some pulling children in a wagon.

“We’re hoping to reach out to the younger generation that hopefully hasn’t been affected by this yet to preach what addiction can do and what it does to families,” said Nate Brooks, April’s husband.

The couple was pleased that the event had surpassed their goal of 50 registrants.

One of the supporters at the event was Michael Dail, who has teamed up with April Brooks on some of their efforts. His daughter, Victoria Dail, who graduated from Nansemond-Suffolk Academy, also died of a heroin overdose in 2016.

“April is awesome,” Dail said. “We’ve been trying to team up with her and get the awareness out there.”

The Dail family also is running a scholarship in Victoria’s name, open to graduates of NSA or Suffolk Public Schools. They got 10 submissions prior to the recent deadline.

Lynn Arnette came out to support the event as a family member of the young daughter that West left behind. She also has other family members fighting addiction and has lost friends to the disease.

“It’s a lot more widespread than people realize, and people don’t want to talk about it,” she said. “I wish people would step up and start talking.”

Arnette said she hopes events like the StrongWILL events will help people talk about addiction more.

Casey Brooks — no relation — is a friend of the Brooks family and came out to support, as well.

“We absolutely had our hearts go out to her and wanted to participate and wanted to be a part of it,” she said.

Applicants for the scholarship in West’s memory must have a legal, permanent address in Hampton Roads and be a graduating senior at a high school in Hampton Roads this year. Applicants also must be accepted into a college or university and plan to enroll by fall semester 2019.

Application forms can be found at www.strongwillevents.org and require an essay not to exceed 1,200 words. The due date is May 17. More information can be found at the website.