BMX star reaches out to
Ottawa County middle school students
By: D’Arcy Egan, The Beacon
News Story – 2nd Place
Tony Hoffman was once a failure, morphing from a fantastic pro athlete to a convicted felon, all because of an addiction to drugs. These days, Hoffman is a hero, connecting with young people all around the country with his inspirational message of rejecting drugs and alcohol and rebuilding his life.
With the support of the Kiwanis Club of Port Clinton and the STARR Project, the former California BMX star will return to Ottawa County to share his life — the pitfalls and the recovery — with middle school students. His “students only” presentations will be at Oak Harbor Middle School on Monday, March 19 at 8:30 a.m. and on Tuesday, March 20 at 8:30 a.m. at the Port Clinton High School Performing Arts Center.
“I’m on the move all year long, bringing my anti-drug message to people of all ages around the country,” he said by telephone from the West Coast. “It all began because I was seeking some purpose for why I went through everything that I went through, and yet I survived.”
Hoffman began his BMX career in high school, and the Clovis, California native quickly excelled. As a big man on campus with pro sponsors, he also began drinking alcohol, smoking marijuana and using Oxycontin and Vicodin painkillers. To fund his habit he became a thief, but was caught after a home invasion armed robbery in 2004.
He was sent to prison for two years.
“After getting out of prison, I felt a powerful need to work with communities and young people,” Hoffman said. “Many people start with prescription drugs, thinking the ‘orange bottle’ (of prescription pain killers) will give them a sense of escape, yet not bring the problems that come with fentanyl or heroin.”
Hoffman said the prescription form of opiates can sneak up on people.
“People think they can get away with using a small amount. They don’t realize the power of the pills are so addictive in such a short time that they could lose their jobs, families, friends and even their lives,” said Hoffman.
By the time an addict wants to change his or her life, it often seems too late, explained Hoffman. And resources are often not available for those without health insurance.
Hoffman is the founder and director of The Freewheel Project, a non-profit organization mentoring thousands of youth through action sports, such as BMX racing, skateboarding and after-school programs. It teaches leadership skills and healthy life choices, focusing on substance abuse prevention.
Sober since 2007, he has also returned to BMX racing. In the 2016 World Championships in Medellin, Columbia he
finished second in the Masters Pro Class. He was an Olympic Games coach in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, with women’s BMX PRO Brooke Crain on his team.
Hoffman spoke to Ottawa County students in September 2017 and the reviews were magical.
“Never before have I shed tears during an assembly,” an Oak Harbor student posted on Hoffman’s web site. “I felt a new sense of inspiration. Many anti-drug presentations have been put in front of us, but none so passionate and so caring.”
The Kiwanis Club of Port Clinton is again sponsoring Hoffman’s visit. Kiwanis is a global organization of volunteers dedicated to changing the world one child and one community at a time. The STARR Project is a partnership with the Kiwanis Club, Sheriff Steven Levorchik, Prosecutor James VanEerten and county judges Kathleen Giesler, Fritz Hany and Bruce Winters designed to bring information on the reality of drug use and its consequences to the young people of Ottawa County.