‘Think of Michael’ formed to help fight addiction

Jan 3, 2019 by

Trivia fundraiser set for January 17

Published January 2, 2019

By DAN TOMASELLO

LYNNFIELD — It’s been a difficult year for Selectmen Chairman Dick Dalton and his family.  As the calendar turns to a new year, the Daltons will be channeling their grief from losing their son by helping people and families struggling with addiction.

The Dalton family has launched a new nonprofit organization called Think of Michael in honor of their son Michael, who passed away from an opiate overdose while in outpatient treatment on Jan. 13, 2018.

“Michael wasn’t what many would consider to be the typical person who would fall victim to addiction,” said Dick Dalton in an interview with the Villager. “My wife and I have been fairly private about this issue, but I think we have to talk about it because we need to raise awareness. There is a stigma attached to it and there is this notion that the addict is in control and if they really set their mind to it, they can right the ship. I think that is a fallacy. This disease takes control of the mind and the body, and we have to realize that. We have to attack it like we have attacked other diseases like Cystic Fibrosis. When we have the resources to fight it, we can.”

Michael’s story

Michael was a dedicated family man, his father said. One of Michael’s favorite things to do was helping his family in the kitchen during the holidays.

“Family was very important to Michael,” said Dalton.

Selectman Chris Barrett, who was friends with Michael, said he made a lasting impact on others.

“Michael was one of those very special people who entered people’s lives and left a lasting impression that will last a lifetime,” said Barrett. “God blessed him with so many wonderful gifts, but his greatest gift was his tremendous ability to make everyone’s life better. Whether it was his smile that could lighten up a room or his sense of humor that could brighten up anyone’s day, there are so many moments that lead us to ‘Think of Michael’ and cause us to smile.”

Dalton said Michael was “an intelligent young man who had an insatiable desire to learn.”

“It was very rare that you saw him without a book in his hand, backpack or somewhere close by,” said Dalton. “He loved to learn about everything.”

In addition to his loving family and desire to learn, Dalton said Michael was a star athlete in high school and college. Michael was named an All-New England football player while attending St. Sebastian’s School. However, his father said Michael’s “first love” was hockey.

“At the end of his freshman year at Colby College, Michael was elected the single captain when they used to have two or three captains,” Dalton recalled. “He was elected captain because he had an intense, competitive spirit. He loved to compete and enjoyed it tremendously. His college coach, Jim Tortorella, had a meeting with the entire hockey team and instructed them to write down in their notebooks what they needed to work on. And as soon as he said that, he said there was one exception and that was Michael Dalton because no one ever worked harder than Michael Dalton.”

Barrett agreed.

“Very often when I put on my son Michael’s ice hockey skates, I am reminded of how truly blessed Michael was as a gifted athlete,” said Barrett. “As great as Michael was on the ice, he was infinitely better as a friend.”

Dalton said Michael was “a very compassionate young man” who undertook “various community service projects with children with disabilities.”

Honoring Michael’s legacy

After Michael passed away, the Dalton family began discussing what they could do to honor his life and help people struggling with addiction.

“We wanted to do something that would be meaningful to us,” said Dalton.

The Dalton family decided to start a nonprofit organization called Think of Michael. The nonprofit seeks to help people suffering from substance abuse by funding scholarships that allow people in recovery to stay at a sober house.

“Sober houses are a good alternative for people to transition and get back into the mainstream,” said Dalton.

Dalton said the origins of the nonprofit started taking shape after he and his wife, Carmela, met with Substance Abuse Prevention Coordinator Peg Sallade just before she was hired last fall.

“Peg gave us a network of people to go to,” said Dalton. “It was a great experience because we met with a number of people who were taking on different initiatives.”

One of the people the Daltons met was Marblehead native Maureen Cavanagh, who founded the nonprofit organization Magnolia New Beginnings. Dalton noted Cavanagh recently wrote a book called “If You Love Me,” which is about her daughter’s struggles with addiction.

“In talking with her, it struck me that what she was doing is what our family was looking to do,” said Dalton. “She has developed a network of clinicians in the Greater Boston area who will call her when someone is finishing up on their inpatient stay.”

Dalton said Magnolia New Beginnings works to ensure its sober houses are well maintained and are properly certified. He said clinicians will reach out to Cavanagh if they have a candidate who needs to stay in a sober house.

“She says ‘we try to reach the most needy of the needy and the most willing of the willing,’” said Dalton.

As a kickoff fundraiser, the first annual Think of Michael Trivia Night will take place at the Breakaway Tavern in Danvers on Thursday, Jan. 17, taking place from 6:30-10:30 p.m.

“We have a great committee of 30 or so people,” said Dalton. “They came up with the idea for the Trivia Night and got excited about it.”

A general admission ticket for the fundraiser costs $25. The cost for admission and trivia is $40 and the cost for a trivia table for 10 people costs $400. Dalton noted the trivia component of the fundraiser is close to being sold out, but said general admission tickets are still available. Tickets will not be sold at the door and must be purchased in advance.

“The Think of Michael nonprofit organization is the perfect way to continue his significant impact by positively touching the lives of others impacted by substance use disorder,” said Barrett.

Dalton said the fundraiser will have some great prizes. The prizes include a Tom Brady helmet, an autographed Boston Red Sox baseball bat and Fenway Fantasy Day.

The Trivia Night’s presenting sponsors are the Cronin Group, Everett Bank, Moynihan Lumber, National Development, the Salem 5 Charitable Foundation, and Kevin and Leslie McCafferty from Lexington.

“Everyone of the sponsors has ties to Michael,” said Dalton.

Think of Michael has different sponsorship levels. A bronze sponsorship costs $200, which will allow someone to live in a sober house for seven days. A silver sponsorship costs $350, which allows someone to stay in a sober house for 15 days. A gold sponsorship costs $700, which enables a person to live in a sober house for 30 days. A platinum sponsorship costs $1,200 and allows someone to stay in a sober house for 60 days. A presenting sponsor costs $2,000, which allows someone to live in a sober house for 100 days.

Dalton said the various sponsorship levels are designed to help fill a void that is currently lacking in the commonwealth.

“MassHealth covers a lot of services and is very good when it comes to addiction as far as the various treatments and what they will cover,” said Dalton. “But there is no coverage for sober houses.”

Dalton has been amazed by the amount of support the community has given him and his family over the past year. Before the Trivia Night fundraiser was announced, Dalton said School Committeeman Tim Doyle gave the foundation a check on behalf of his law firm, Colonna and Doyle. He also said CAM Media, which is owned by Lynnfield resident John Mitchell, is a gold sponsor and helped get some of the prizes for Trivia Night.

“The way the community has responded has been so comforting to us as a family,” said Dalton.

In addition to planning the Trivia Night fundraiser, Dalton has begun meeting with doctors from Mass. General Hospital to discuss developing a plan to help people in recovery find work after they get out of a sober house.

For more information about Think of Michael or to purchase tickets for the Trivia Night fundraiser, visit www.thinkofmichael.org.

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