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George Chuvalo is a boxer, a very talented boxer who fought Mohammed Ali, Floyd Patterson and most of the top heavyweights of his era. He knocked out Jerry Quarry, at Madison Square Gardens, Cleveland ‘big cat’ Williams, at the Houston Astro-Dome.
George fought all over the world until the world came crashing down on his life, with the loss of three beloved sons to heroin addiction. In the midst of this tragedy George’s warm, caring wife Lynn, would end her life, when a mother’s heart could break no further.
Family and friends did what they could to keep George alive physically; but sleep eluded him for months. Miraculously he was able to maintain his sanity by seeking answers to the ‘riddle’ as to how his life could be destroyed in this fashion. He began to realize that providing love, food, shelter and material things to his children was somehow not enough. Some intangible variable had gone wrong.
The support and unconditional love of his two remaining children made it clear to him that although he could not protect his three dead sons, he might be able to, ‘in their names’, do something to protect others.
He began with ‘one on one’ discussions with drug addicted young people. Then the subject of drug abuse began to emerge during talks George was making at conventions and sports dinners. He was subsequently invited to deliver his message at schools. George Chuvalo’s campaign against drugs was born.
At present, George continually criss-crosses the country, from Newfoundland to British Colombia. He has spent entire weeks on the road traveling in everything from minivans to planes, determined to get his ‘message’ out. In a way this is therapy for George, it helps him to deal with his past. He ‘bleeds’ with every presentation before students and they see his pain. Through this selfless revelation they connect with him.
George usually begins his presentation with a soft-spoken yet ominous declaration that ‘using drugs is absolutely the worst thing you can do to yourself’. He reveals his very personal tragedy and then discusses a possible solution to the ‘riddle’. “Love is what helps me survive” says George. “Telling my grandchildren that I love them and hearing the same sentiment in response makes it possible for me, to make contact with them and permits all other communication.”
He encourages students not to be embarrassed by expressions of parental love and establishes the need to openly discuss ‘life’ with those that care and worry about them. He goes on to discuss the mindless traps of peer pressure and the dubious value of image without substance. The corrupting influence of movies and TV are exposed, where prominent actors depict smoking as ‘cool’ behavior. This is especially offensive to George. He asks the students whether it’s ‘cool’ to be trapped in an addiction to cigarettes. ‘A healthy useful body is worthwhile’ says George. ‘I want every one of you to have a happy meaningful life- you deserve it. Your family and friends deserve to have a cheerful, thoughtful helper, not a selfish desperate ‘junky’.
George’s talks to students are not intended to be theoretical discussions. They are brutal confrontation, exploding the fallacies and lies that overwhelm many young lives.
The normal 2-hour presentation is usually extended by a further hour, to permit George to have ‘one on one’ contact with his audience.
I cannot in this article, adequately show the emotional impact that George has on his students. I can only thank him for his inspired efforts combating this hideous curse of drug addiction. Our magazine will always support George Chuvalo in his efforts.