Thursday, September 21, 2000

Mother makes lesson of tragedies

Drugs killed one son, gunfire another; that's why she's speaking out

By Sue Kiesewetter
Enquirer Contributor

        WEST CHESTER TWP. — The message Lonise Bias brings to young people across the country is simple: Learn to love and appreciate yourself.

        It is a message she is bringing to teens across Butler County as part of the “Safe Kids, Strong Families” conference, sponsored by Butler County commissioners.

[photo] Lonise Bias, mother of two sons who died young, talked to Butler County teen leaders Wednesday.
(Dick Swaim photo)
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        She spoke passionately Wednesday at Lakota Freshman School to student leaders from several schools, and later at Middletown High. Today, she will speak to students at Hamilton and Talawanda high schools and to the public in a 7 p.m. session at Parrish Auditorium on the Hamilton campus of Miami University.

        Fourteen years ago, Ms. Bias' son, Len, died of a drug overdose two weeks after being recruited by the Boston Celtics. Four years later, her son, Jay, was gunned down in a drive-by shooting. Since then she has encouraged young adults to be true to themselves.

        “One of the greatest pieces of healing is giving of yourself,” Ms. Bias said after her talk. “It was difficult for me at the time (of the two deaths), but I've gone beyond it. You never get over it, you just learn to live with it. If my message affects (teens), it's worth it.”

        Until going on the road after Len Bias' death, Ms. Bias said she did not know there was such a large drug problem in the nation. It is why she continues with her mission.

        She urged student leaders to respect positive and legal authorities, love their mothers, look at life as a half-full glass, make good decisions despite pressure to do otherwise, and not to fear hard times because they were inevitable and would only make the students stronger.

        “In reaching the masses of young people, you are our greatest commodity,” she told the students.

        Her talk made Badin High School sophomore Wally Zanan think about his own life.

        “It was inspirational,” the 16-year-old Hamilton resident said. “It makes me want to reflect on what I've done the last few years and make some changes.”

        Ann Osborne, a student government member at Lakota Freshman School, was impressed with Ms. Bias and her message.

        “I think the way she presented herself went really well,” said the 14-year-old from West Chester Township. “She came out with her heart and showed her love for young people. She brought her (message) for all young people.”


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