The Student News Site of McLean High School

The Highlander

The Student News Site of McLean High School

The Highlander

The Student News Site of McLean High School

The Highlander

Drew Stieg Foundation honors graduate’s legacy

McLean graduate’s family launches foundation to aid students
The Drew Stieg Aspiring Wellness Foundation focuses on bringing resources to students in order to honor Drew’s memory.

McLean High School Class of 2020 graduate Drew Stieg died of an overdose in March, shocking the community. In his memory, the Stieg family founded the Drew Stieg Aspiring Wellness Program, a nonprofit geared toward bringing awareness to mental health and substance abuse among teens.
“Drew was an outstanding baseball player and an even better kid,” Director of Student Activities Greg Miller said. “Not only was Drew beloved, but his entire family has been an integral part of our community for decades.”
Drew made an impact throughout McLean, especially on the baseball field with his coaches and teammates.
“Any day it wasn’t raining, [Drew] was in the cages, hitting and smiling,” head baseball coach John Dowling said. “At practice, he was the same. He was always just so positive, happy and such a supportive teammate.”
While Drew appeared to be happy, beneath the surface he struggled with his mental health, which eventually spiraled into substance abuse.
“Drew really battled with mental health issues starting in 10th grade,” said Karen Stieg, Drew’s mother. “When he sought help for all of his mental health issues, he was reintroduced to ADHD medicine. What we didn’t know at the time [was] how addictive it is. That quickly taught him to feel better. When he went to George Mason to play baseball, that social anxiety [made him relapse]. He knew what he could rely on.”
Drew took steps to recover but continued to struggle with substance abuse. While he was able to get help, the recovery process was difficult for him, and he did not receive an adequate amount of assistance.
“Drew got out to get help. That’s the first time he went into rehab, but he could never really overcome it, and so he’d stay clean for a little, but it just controlled his world. [The treatment centers] weren’t enough, and so he was in and out of rehab for the last year,” Karen Stieg said. “Drew [overdosed] twice before he died, and [the last] was his third time.”
As the Stieg family coped with the loss, they chose to use Drew’s story to help the McLean community.
“The Drew Stieg Aspiring Wellness Program was started shortly after his passing, within a matter of a couple of weeks,” Principal Ellen Reilly said. “His dad called, and we got it set up through the McLean boosters right away.”
The Stieg family plans to focus not only on the students who may be struggling with substance issues, but also on the pressures students face that they may not feel comfortable discussing.
“The purpose of the foundation is to help raise awareness when it comes to mental health,” Miller said. “The foundation is still in its very early stages, but the first contribution is the foundation is paying for a guest speaker…to speak about mental health.”
The program brought in Sam Anthony Lucania, a motivational speaker who shares his past experiences to promote mental and physical wellness. On Sept. 21, Lucania spoke with students about his journey from addiction and his time in jail in order to inspire students to get help and focus on personal health. The foundation hopes to achieve other goals aside from advocating for mental health awareness, such as allowing students to feel heard.
“[Our first goal is to] create safe places for people,” Karen Stieg said. “Whether [they use] peers, parents or counselors, those people can feel like they can ask for help and resources.”
Another area she hopes the foundation can help with is improving the community’s support systems for those struggling with mental health issues.
“[Our] second [goal] is to get rid of the stigma,” Karen Stieg said. “There’s so much stigma with mental health, substance abuse and overdose.”
Finally, the foundation aims to make sure everyone has access to treatments and self-help opportunities.
“Our third goal is just to find a way to share resources,” Karen Stieg said. “When this all really started to go down, it was impossible to navigate where to get help, therapists, treatment centers and how much it costs. It was really overwhelming. I think building a resource library would help.”
While the Drew Stieg Aspiring Wellness Program is just getting started, planning for upcoming events is already underway, and the Stieg family has several ideas for potential projects to start once the organization is more established.
“We have partnered with the McLean 5K, which was Oct. 7,” Karen Stieg said. “We just made a team and we’re getting T-shirts made. [Later on, we want to] think about making scholarships and different programs like education resources.”
Drew’s story has affected many areas of McLean, but his former baseball team has been especially impacted.
“I think kids get told all the time, ‘don’t do drugs’ and ‘make good choices,’ but it always seems like it’s someone else that the bad things happen to,” Dowling said. “With [Drew] being a part of the baseball program and understanding that [he was] someone that many of their peers knew, and certainly our coaching staff, makes [Drew’s story] hit home.”
Karen Stieg hopes families of students struggling with mental health issues or substance abuse problems will listen to Drew’s story and be inspired to create change for their child. Drew’s story can educate not only those who are currently facing the same issues, but also parents and friends who are unsure of what actions to take in order to help.
“Students and young adults [should hear his story] for sure, but I think parents should too,” Karen Stieg said. “Parents have no idea. I’m sure I’ve only scratched the surface on what I understand, but I think creating education and awareness for the signs to look out for and how to deal with them is really important. Yelling at them isn’t helpful, but really understanding addiction and mental health issues so you can help your loved one or navigate it [is important]. First, you have to educate yourself.”
To learn more about the Drew Stieg Aspiring Wellness Foundation, click here.

Leave a Comment
Donate to The Highlander
$45
$1000
Contributed
Our Goal

Your donation supports the McLean High School's independent, award-winning news publication.

More to Discover
Donate to The Highlander
$45
$1000
Contributed
Our Goal

Comments (0)

All The Highlander Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *