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'Never Alone' group offers support

August 18, 2013
By MARK LAW - For The Weirton Daily Times ( , Weirton Daily Times

WEIRTON - Never Alone West Virginia, held at the Weirton Event Center, brought together members of the community to show support for those struggling with addiction.

Patti Barnabei, Never Alone founder, said the message is simple - you are never alone if you reach out for help.

The event featured live music and two motivational speakers, including Dwayne Woodruff, a cornerback with the Pittsburgh Steelers from 1979 to 1990 and current family law judge in Allegheny County, Pa.

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Woodruff, recanting his football days, said if you want to make a difference in someone's life, you can't do it by yourself. "You need a team."

"If you are going to fight drugs, alcohol and misguided youth, you need a good team. Just like the Pittsburgh Steelers. The community needs to start working out as a team," Woodruff said. "We are in a fight for kids looking to drugs and alcohol."

Woodruff said as a family court judge, he tries to show the juveniles before him that he cares for them and listens to what they are saying. "At least they know they are before a judge that cares for them. I treat them like my own kids."

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NEVER ALONE — Never Alone West Virginia on Saturday at the Weirton Event Center featured live music and motivational speakers about the dangers of drugs and getting help for addicts. Participating were, from left, Patti Barnabei, Never Alone founder, Dwayne Woodruff, former Pittsburgh Steeler and current Allegheny County, Pa., family law judge, and Joey DelSardo, former University of Pittsburgh football player and recovering drug addict. -- Mark Law

Woodruff says he routinely is approached by juveniles that were once standing before him in court that turned their lives around and graduated high school or college and got a good job.

"They are proud for the first time. They think they are somebody. Get kids excited, get people out there that care, and they can do something with their life," he said.

But he also knows there are kids that stay on the wrong track.

"Today, we have too many kids who get too much of what they want instead of getting what they need. It takes a village to raise a child and I'm part of that village," Woodruff said.

"We don't have a juvenile problem. We have an adult problem."

Woodruff acknowledged the work of Barnabei in bringing the community together. "As adults, that is what we are supposed to do."

He said more people need to come to community events such as Never Alone.

"This is where it starts. The word will spread and it will get bigger and bigger."

Woodruff said the family needs to be the No. 1 priority today.

"If we aren't doing something positive, then someone out there will do something negative," he said about the influences on a child's life.

"Every kid wants to succeed. But when they lose guidance along the way - whoever is guiding them - then that is where they will go. Many kids want to be successful but they don't know what to do. Sometimes they are just scared. They have not learned that failure to part of life. Kids fall and they think it is over. We need to teach them to stand up and reach for their dreams," Woodruff said.

Also speaking was Joey DelSardo, a former University of Pittsburgh wide receiver and recovering drug addict,

DelSardo said he got addicted to pain pills in high school following a football injury.

"One thing I didn't know is that it would take five years to put that drug down," he said.

He eventually turned to heroin. DelSardo said nobody could see his addiction because he was so successful on the football field and basketball court in high school.

He got a scholarship to Pitt as a walk-on, One of his plays made the ESPN top play of the day as a freshman. But he was no longer the started in his sophomore year and his addiction turned worse. He stole from his brother, who idolized him. He had a gun pointed in his mouth while trying to buy drugs in the Homestead section of Pittsburgh. A neighbor, who was a cop, caught on to his addiction and told him that kicking the drug habit would be the hardest thing he ever did. DelSardo had to tell his family of his addiction, and he immediately went into a recovery program.

He has been clean for six years now, and has been speaking of his addiction recovery for the past three years.

He knew that recovery would take one day at a time.

"All of us here are affected by addiction. Some lost the lives of loved ones to addiction. Addiction is something you don't want to talk about," he said.

His goal is to reach just one addict when he talks. "That one person touches so many lives around them."

"I encourage people to get help. They can't do it alone. They need help."

The event concluded with a moment of silence for those who lost their lives to addiction in the community. A candlelight walk was then held in the neighborhood around the Weirton Event Center.

(Law can be contacted at

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