Zachary Crowe, a pre-med student from Toledo, had never considered founding a nonprofit. “It was an accident. The idea was just to make some shirts and raise some money to give to an organization…I wanted to give kids something that I didn’t have.”
Growing up with Family Addiction
Crowe knows firsthand the devastating impacts of substance abuse and family addiction on young people. He grew up with a family member who was addicted to heroin. He shares that there are devastating aspects of living with an addict that people don’t always realize, both financially and emotionally. Children are affected whether the person who is addicted recovers or not.
In families with addiction, there are a variety of roles that children might take on to cope. One such role is the hero role which inspired the name for the organization. Children who take on the hero role in a family with addiction often focus on academics or athletics, and it can appear that they are successful and responsible. But Crowe knows that they end up burying their anger and sadness, creating a negative impact on their relationships and causing them to be unhappy.
Founding The Hero Project 419 Inc.
After raising a few hundred dollars selling t-shirts over summer break from his undergraduate studies, Crowe began looking for an organization to donate the money. He discovered that Toledo has many services to help people who suffer with addictions; however, none were aimed at children of addicts. He realized that if he was going to give back to kids who come from a similar background, he would have to do more than raise money.
Crowe says that in the beginning, “it was just me with my t-shirts running around, not knowing what I was doing. Slowly I started bringing people onto the team. Our team is why we are successful, to be honest. Almost everyone on the team has some form of lived experience with it [family addiction], and they gravitate towards the mission.” Now twelve team members, who are also undergraduate or graduate students, lead the organization. Everyone who works with THP volunteers, so all proceeds go to the mission.
The Hero Project 419 is still a fundraising organization donating to a local organization that provides housing for families recovering from addiction. Recently, THP has also started a mentoring program for affected youth. The program, Capes for the Community, is partnering with Big Brothers Big Sisters and Victory Academy.
A core component of the program is that participants and their mentors develop, plan, and execute a philanthropy project every nine weeks. Young people are empowered by giving to others and learning soft job skills such as collaboration, leadership, and communication.
Their mentoring program has participants from a variety of demographics and identities, many are currently from UTMC medical school. Crowe notes that “substance abuse has no demographic. It has no specific wealth bracket. It can affect anyone.”
How You Can Help
- Volunteer as a mentor.
“What we really need right now are more mentors. People that want to help mentor a kid who could potentially go down the wrong path if they don’t get assistance from our organization. We’re looking for people that are willing to share their skills and talents with kids and to hopefully inspire them.”
- Link a young person who is affected by the addiction of a family member to the mentorship program.
- Raising Money. Donations are always welcome!
For more information, you can find The Hero Project 419 Inc. on Facebook or at theheroproject.net.