Earlier this month, we offered Narcan training at
the plant for our supervisors and site managers. I deemed this to be necessary
not because of the people I work with, but rather because of the world we live
in. Working with 200 people and having our facilities visited by and shared
with dozens more on a daily basis, the odds are that sooner or later we will
encounter some opiate-related situation.
That’s because the opiod epidemic has become a regular
part of Western New York life; it has permeated every demographic in the region
– young and old; rich and poor; black and white; urban and rural. The
statistics show that every one of us knows someone who is addicted to some sort
of opiod whether it’s heroin or prescription pain pills like
morphine, codeine, oxycodone, methadone and Vicodin.
I firmly believe that puts every business or
non-profit that employs or serves more than a few dozen people a day in the
crosshairs. Factories, restaurants, retailers and schools should be prepared
for the day that someone comes into their facility either strung-out or
spiraling into an overdose. It’s the latter situation where Narcan training
comes into play.
Narcan is the name brand of naloxone, which is an
opiate antidote. The active ingredient competes with opioids to bind with the
same receptors in the brain that feast on the drugs. Usually, it reverses the
effects of an opioid overdose in 2 to 3 minutes, buying the poisoned person
time for emergency medical help to arrive.
Without it, a person who is
overdosing on an opioid can have his or her breathing slow down or stop
completely, causing brain damage or death. With heroin and the like,
overdosing’s effects aren’t immediate – they typically develop over a 1 to 3
hour period; meaning that someone can come to work or shop at a store in a
relatively normal-appearing state then devolve into total misery.
Narcan is easy to administer. The
layman lacking even the most basic knowledge of first aid skills can use it. It
is done with a misting agent that is sprayed into the affected party’s nose. No
needles. No mess. And, if you were wrong about the diagnosis, there are no ill
effects to that person. You can’t get any easier or safer than that.
Some county governments like Erie
offer training and kits free of charge to interested individuals. Here in
Niagara County, we haven’t reached that level of community-based drug triage,
but I guarantee we will.
In the meantime, if you would like
to prepare yourself for something that might happen anywhere and at anytime,
you can do as we did. We called on the services of the Batavia-based Lake
Plains Community Care. Their emergency medical services trainer Andrew Steel
gave an excellent seminar and conducted hands-on training. Each of the trainees
was outfitted with his own Narcan kit. All of that was fully funded by a state
grant that Lake Plains uses to train the community.
Being prepared for a heroin overdose
that could happen at your doorstep might seem unnecessary. “It will never
happen here,” you might say. But realize that too many mothers and fathers and
husbands and wives never thought that a heroin addiction would strike and tear
apart their family. It can happen to anyone, anywhere. The heroin and pain
killer crises are real, and you should be prepared for the very worst. The life
you save might be your customer, a coworker, a friend, or a member of your own
On June 25th, 2016 I had the privilege
of delivering the commencement speech to the graduating class of 113 students
at my alma mater – Royalton Hartland.
It was truly an honor and a memory that I will cherish for the rest of my life.
Here is the transcript of that speech….
The last day of school…on a hot day like this…I’m sure a lot of you really want
to get out of here….like now.
So, I promise to keep this speech just like
me…short and sweet.
Most commencement speakers addressing
graduates across America today will talk about the future. I won’t.
Instead, I want to talk about your past
I want to challenge you to always
remember who you are and where you came from.
And, just where did you come from?
If you’ve been paying attention to the
news lately, you know that Business First came out with their annual rankings
of WNY schools.
Where did we end up? 70th
Some of you might get “school envy” from
that – and wish you had gone to Clarence and Williamsville where all the “cool”
Some of you might worry that you were
cheated out of an education as you head out into the Real World.
I strongly believe that you can toss aside
You are more prepared for work, family,
and community than any young adult at those larger, fancier schools.
I often tell people this:
There’s a reason Clark Kent was raised
on a farm.
If he was raised in Metropolis…he never
would have become Superman.
I say that because only here…out in the
countryside of Gasport…or in this quaint village of Middleport…can you develop
the traits, the character, the life skills to become the world’s next super
None of you were born on the planet
Krypton but just being here, at Roy-Hart, you’ve been given super powers of
your own that can’t be achieved elsewhere.
For starters, think about your selflessness,
the love of community, the love of your fellow Man and the empathy that you’ve
In the Big City and suburbs, most people
consider making a donation their way of making an impact.
Not here. A small community survives and
flourishes because everyone is directly involved in it.
Think about the experiences you’ve had
helping people, going on mission trips, helping at fundraisers, and making the
world a better place with your blood, sweat and tears.
If you were like Will Woodman, you were
involved in the Boy Scout program and you undertook service projects that made
If you were like Kelsey Voelker, a
Community All-Star, you volunteered for -- and enjoyed helping –countless organizations.
Because of that, you are now prepared to
go out into the bigger world and change it – and God knows, this world needs a
lot of changing.
Your super powers don’t end there.
You might have thought you were a super hero
in purple and white on the diamond, field or court.
If you went to a larger school, you
might not have had that chance – there are only so many roster spots available
on a team.
But here, you had that chance to
participate. You had that chance to excel in athletics.
You might have been like Amber Villella --
who was a Time Warner Athlete of the week, one of the premier student-athletes
in Western New York.
You might have been like Cameron Swick
-- who showed that our athletes can beat the best that the entire state can
throw at us.
Everyone of you had that chance to be an
From that you’ve gained so many life skills:discipline, team work, a sense of urgency, and
the ability to perform under stress.
If you’ve read any of my columns you
know what I think about common core – and judging by Roy-Hart’s opt-out rates
for exams, I know where a lot of families stand.
Common core stifles creativity. It
stifles free thought. It promotes uniformity.
Common Core is rotten to the core.
So, how do you overcome common core?
With stellar, nationally-recognized arts programs at Roy-Hart that gave
everyone of you the chance to think outside of the box, to make things out of
nothing, to draw, to sing, to act…to learn how to speak in front of a crowd, to
turn ideas into reality.
I’m sure two-time all-State trombonist Ben
Bacon can attest to what the arts meant for him….as can Des’Ree Taylor who was
the outstanding art student of the year.
Let’s not forget the trades either.
I’m a manufacturing guy, so I tell
people all the time, college isn’t for everyone and nor should it be.
If you want to make good money, do what
people don’t do anymore…that
is get dirty and do things with your mind and your hands.
Here, we have a culture that promotes work.
BOCES isn’t for second class students. It’s for first class students who are
wise beyond their years and know what they want out of life.
Haley Moore for example. This cosmetology major and SkillsUSA competitor
dominated in school and is already working in a salon to pay for her nursing
Or how about Joe DiMayo, a superstar welder who had a paid
internship at a local welding shop, and will be attending the new welding
program at NCCC.
And, it doesn’t end there. We are all
here for one reason…a good old fashioned education.
There is no better place to get one than
We have stellar teachers, small classes,
and an environment in which you could receive personal attention…a welcoming
place to learn, even if you didn’t want to.
And, if you didn’t want to, they made
sure that you did.
Where else could you find such a
friendly learning culture, where you could master the sciences, math, English
Look at the accomplishments of our top 2
– Ben Bacon and Avery Green – they can hang with any of the great minds
graduating today across this country – and they will.
So, never leave here thinking that were
cheated, that you didn’t get the best in life coming from a small town.
You were given the best in life…you were
given powers and abilities that students would never even dream of getting in
the big schools.
That’s an incredible foundation to build
off. It doesn’t matter if you are going to trade school, college, work or
starting a family.
You have been given so much….to do so
The key is to never forget who you are.
Never forget where you came from.
You will kick the world’s butt because
you have Ram Power – you have character, empathy, moxie, work ethic,
creativity, and intelligence because of where you came from.
You can be the next Superman or
You will come to realize that as you
adjust to your new life…and you will appreciate that even more 10, 20 years
down the road when you are raising a family, moving up in your wokplace, or
sacrificing your time and energy for others.
You are unique. Just as Roy-Hart is
Before I leave, I want you to ponder those
who made that possible.
It takes a village to raise a child….the
contributions of your teachers, school staff, coaches, scout leaders, pastors,
and neighbors are immeasurable.
In the coming weeks before you move on
into adulthood, take the time to thank those who helped make you who you are.
And, tonight, please thank your parents.
They knew that Gasport and Middleport
were the places to raise a family….this small school, the fields, the forests, the
Canal, the solitude, the quality of life.
Many of them sacrificed a lot to give
you that life.
Many of your parents had to make hour
long commutes to Buffalo or Rochester to ensure that you had a good home in a
Many others did not pursue the bigger
jobs that they could have in bigger cities, knowing full well that the cities
and the suburbs weren’t places to raise a child.
And, it was never easy.
You guys are kids of the Great
Recession. When you were 9 or 10, your parents struggled with lost jobs, lost
retirements, and maybe even lost homes.
They shed a lot of tears.
You probably did too.
But they made it all work. It wasn’t
So, tonight, give mom and dad a hug…and not
just because I said so.
Good luck….to all of you. You’ve all
made Roy-Hart proud…and you will continue to do so for the rest of your
When people think of Golden Hill State Park, the first things that come
to mind are its famed lighthouse and its impressive campground.
But, it’s much more than that. For the nature lover, the Park offers a nice excursion. And best of all, it’s free.
While you might have to pay $6 per car to enter the primary section of
the Park, or $15 to camp there, if you drive just a little past the
campground entrance on Lower Lake Road to the sign that announces the
boat launch, you will have free access to parking, hiking, picnicking
The free section of Golden Hill State Park is one of my favorite places
to visit in all of Niagara County. If any part of the county could be
considered remote, it’s the town of Somerset where the Park is located.
It’s off the beaten path, a decent drive from Lockport and you’d better
make a day’s adventure out of it if you plan on visiting from the Falls.
There are plenty of natural wonders to see if you choose to do that.
A great view of the lake
Unlike other views of Lake Ontario, the view at Golden Hill is pristine.
You don’t look across the lake and see Toronto. You don’t look to your
left and right and see collections of cottages. You see an open expanse
of water, with little to no boat activity, and few humans onshore -- it
looks just as it did before Man set foot here.
Such an environment lends itself to impressive collections of gulls and
other sea birds. Old squaws – a type of northern duck -- regularly
winter in these waters and I was a little shocked to see a female old
squaw near the mouth of Golden Hill Creek last weekend. It’s awful late
in the year for her to be here.
Quite the sight!
Heading east from the underutilized boat launch (there were no boats in
the water on a perfect Saturday), there is a trail that stays on the rim
of the high embankment, affording you views of young, new-growth
forests to the south and the lake to the north. This calming path, which
is complimented by the crashing waves, will lead you all the way to
County Line Road.
Great hiking and bird watching
If you walk west from the boat launch, you will encounter an entrance
into the forest that leads to agreat network of trails, some that stay
to the south of Golden Hill Creek through stands of forest, brushand
open space, and others that cross a very nice bridge over the creek that
will lead you through an oak grove, to the lake shore, and through
forests all the way to the campgrounds and lighthouse.
These trails are all easy to navigate. The park employees keep them well
identified, maintained and regularly mowed. They are quite wide, too,
so if you are one of those folks who fears ticks…don’t. These trails are
custom-made for you.
You can spend a good portion of the day walking these trails and if you
do so in the spring or summer, bring binoculars…the bird life is pretty
outstanding. On a hike with an adventurous and noisy 4 year old last
weekend I saw flycatchers, kingfishers, waxwings, orioles, vireos,
warblers and catbirds to name just a few.
Overall, this section of the park is not used too much. I’ve never seen
all of the picnic tables used near the boat launch area, so it’s a good
“go to” option for families looking for a nice place to take a packed
lunch (or you could grab takeout at Pizza, Wings and Things in nearby
There are also some picnic tables out of the way near the bridge over
Golden Hill Creek and across that bridge. Those tables on the peninsula
remain mostly unused and from there you can marvel at a lot of wildlife.
Just be sure to bring out what you bring in! There are no garbage cans in this section of the park.
Great kayaking and fishing
If you put your trailed boat in at the launch, you will have to pay a $6
fee – tickets are distributed by a meter there. But, if you put in a
car-top kayak, you could do it for free. Golden Hill Creek is shallow,
but still deep enough for kayaking and a family could take their fleet
about a third to a half mile into the woods (depending on how wet the
summer is). Beavers live in this stretch, so keep your eyes peeled for
these cute, giant rodents.
If you have some confidence and a PFD on you, you could also venture out
into the lake. When the predominant southwest wind is coming in, the
vast area to the west of the creek’s mouth is dead calm because 30 Mile
Point (where the lighthouse is set) acts as a powerful buffer. Many days
of the year it is safe for kayaking and canoeing – just respect Mother
Nature; the weather and conditions can change.
While you are on or by the water, bring a fishing pole. The inlet and
creek hold bass, pike and panfish in the summer while colder waters
bring in the trout and salmon at other times of the year. It’s a neat
place to get a young kid started in fishing.
For more information…
The 500-plus acre Park is a wonderful place to visit for the day. If
you’d like an extended trip, stay the night at the campground. Details
about this public asset – and reservation information -- can be found
online at http://www.nysparks.com/parks/143/details.aspx.
Bob Confer is a Gasport resident. His column, Exploring the Niagara Frontier, is published every Thursday on All WNY News.
Last week, Hillary Clinton secured the Democratic
presidential nomination, becoming the first woman, in the eyes of many, to
officially run for that office. Not to belittle her accomplishments, but she is
not the first. To properly identify what Clinton has accomplished, one must say
she is the first woman to run for president via a major political party. In
terms of being the first woman on a presidential ticket from any party (large
or small), she was bested by someone who was born and raised right here in
Niagara County: Belva Lockwood.
Lockwood ran for the office of the president in 1884 and 1888, both times under
the National Equal Rights Party. In 1884 she received 4,100 votes, a fraction
of those received by winner Grover Cleveland — ironically, another candidate
with a solid Western New York background — who garnered 4.87 million votes.
Limited numbers notwithstanding, Lockwood’s performance far rivals what Clinton
has done. Since Lockwood’s passing, women have had a long history of holding
federal office dating back to 1917 in the House (when Jeanette Rankin was
elected) and 1932 in the Senate (when Hattie Caraway was elected).
But back when Lockwood ran, women were looked at as
second-class citizens; they couldn’t even vote. Back then the common sentiment
was that they belonged in the home and shouldn’t participate in more manly
pursuits like governance and law. The majority of the “gentlemanly” press
painted her as a joke when she campaigned, just as they did any other woman who
counted herself as a suffragist fighting for women’s voting rights.
Lockwood was incredibly instrumental in changing those disgusting ways in which
we viewed and treated women in the public arena. She overcame the negative
coverage and showed that she was up to the task of debating and developing a
platform, a 15-position masterpiece that was arguably more substantial than
that of Cleveland or his Republican foe, James Blaine. Had women possessed the
right to vote, she would have been a formidable opponent and definitely a game
changer (The 1884 election was close: Cleveland had 48.5 percent of the vote
while Blaine had 48.02 percent).
Outside of politics, she was just as impressive. As a teacher, she developed
new curriculum in her schools and expanded the knowledge base afforded young
women, exposing them to studies that only men once took. She also became one of
the first female lawyers to practice in the U.S. and ultimately the first one
allowed to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court.
She was a successful lawyer at that; she fought the case of the Eastern
Cherokee Indians against the government, winning them a settlement of $5
million (which in today’s dollars is $97 million). Somehow, she managed all
this while running a boarding house and tirelessly fighting for women’s rights.
She was an entirely self-made woman; her achievements were not the result of
privilege. Lockwood empowered herself and gave women the hope that they could do
the same. In her time she ranked with Susan B. Anthony (who was immortalized on
a dollar coin) as one of the most powerful and well-known women in the country.
Despite all of that, America has forgotten who she
was and what she did, as made evident by the accolades thrown upon Clinton with
nary any praise for Lockwood having paved the way. Sadly, Lockwood has not even
become a footnote. And, her name never came up in discussions regarding who
should succeed Andrew Jackson on the twenty-dollar bill.
It’s high time Belva Lockwood got her due – she was
the first woman to appear on a presidential ticket and, as made evident by
everything she accomplished, she truly was presidential material.