Four men sat in front of family members, peers and mentors on Thursday morning at the Dunkirk City Treatment Court graduation, each smiling at his own personal accomplishments. They are on the threshold of a new beginning after completing the city's drug court program.
The ceremony began with an invocation by the Rev. Terry Kime of Unitarian Universalist Church of Northern Chautauqua and a welcoming by Judge Walter F. Drag who spoke of the end of summer and the upcoming anniversary of Sept. 11.
Drag referenced a new Justin Moore song after a moment of silence in remembrance of many who lost their lives, those in active duty and those who are "people doing everyday jobs who are everyday angels."
He praised police officers and firemen who perform their jobs each day for the good of the community and went on to say, "We think about those people out there who put their lives on the line."
Drag added, "These four people are here today as heroes. I'm proud to recognize the graduates."
Treatment Court Coordinator LeeAnn Lazarony stood at the front of the courtroom and issued certificates, commending each man for his accomplishments and how far they've come on the road to recovery.
"I walked into drug court thinking it was a joke," said one of the men. "I'm now forever grateful for this program because it works."
One said, "Drug court for me was the bridge that allowed me to look forward."
After they received their certificates, Josie Christopher of Dunkirk's Circle of Love presented each of the men with small gifts and congratulated them on their successes.
"Everybody's doing their part," she said, emphasizing that their accomplishments are greatly influenced by the love they have in their hearts.
The ceremony also recognized those advancing through the various phases of treatment. Since 2002, more than 225 people have graduated from the program.
Drag said of those who pass through treatment, "Although they have to deal with their lifelong condition, they have achieved stability and are leading productive lives. These changed lives affect a wide circle of family, friends and employers and thus the whole community."
At the celebration, Drag demonstrated this through giving each graduate potted chrysanthemums to remind them of their spanning success. He referred to Japanese beliefs about the unfolding of chrysanthemum petals and how they represent perfection.
Kenneth J. Sikorski was presented with the Beacon of Hope Award, a picture of the Dunkirk Lighthouse, to recognize his years of service in Dunkirk City Court. The award is presented to those who dedicate their time and effort, often quietly in the background.
"Over 35 years, I have seen a lot of change," Sikorski said.
The ceremony concluded with benediction and a reception with refreshments.