Family raises money for addiction treatment in dad's memory

SIOUX FALLS (AP) – Harrison Olson and his sisters awoke early on their dad’s birthday.

The siblings had a plan. They were going to print tickets, get all the fun birthday amenities Disney World had to offer, wake up their dad and get the perfect day started.

It was the day their worst fear was realized.

Harrison walked up to his father, who didn’t respond right away, not an unusual occurrence for the heavy sleeper.

Harrison kept trying, and his father kept still.

He ran for his older sisters.

Tim Olson died on June 9, 2019, his 47th birthday, from health implications brought by years of addiction to alcohol.

“We knew his health was impacted by this,” said the eldest sibling, Kaitlin Olson. “We had discussions before about being afraid of losing him. It was a sad moment to confirm one of my worst fears.”

A year after their dad’s death, the siblings want to help people with addiction and their families while honoring the memory of their father, the Argus Leader reported.

For Tim’s birthday and Father’s Day, the family hosted a fundraiser to help provide peer coaching at Face It Together, a Sioux Falls-based organization that practices peer mentoring for people with addictions and their families.

The family connected to Face It Together when Tim’s wife, Heather, attended Face It Together’s SMART Family & Friends meetings and received coaching from a Face It Together mentor in 2017. Harrison, 15, said he thinks those services were helpful to his mom and wanted to pay it forward.

“Treatment and counseling can be a very expensive thing,” he said. “I hope everyone who needs help can get it.”

The goal was $5,000.

They reached that goal day one and reached nearly $10,000, which will cover more than 145 free coaching sessions. Face It Together typically provides sponsorships of four-sessions, so that would be 37 sponsorships for people who are seeking addiction help.

“It’s nice to know our story touched enough people that they were willing to donate, especially during a hard time,” said Kaitlin, 22, a master’s student at the University of Colorado-Anschutz. “It means more to me that people will get the help they need and encourage their loved ones to get help as well. That’s what we wanted.”

Lauren Olson, a 19-year-old sophomore at Colorado State University, noticed that her dad drank, but didn’t understand that it was an issue until the family had a conversation about him going to treatment about five years ago. She had a lot of questions: How long would he be gone? What do you do at treatment? How would it help? Why do you keep drinking?

“I think I thought when I was younger that he was choosing to drink over the family,” she said. “Once he went through treatment for the first time, I realized it was a true problem that he wasn’t in control of.”

It’s one of the things she and her siblings say they learned and one of the most important messages they want to get across. Their dad was more than his drinking, and the disease of addiction doesn’t discriminate.

“Knowing how much he cared and would do anything for us, if he couldn’t stop, it was clearly very powerful over him,” said Kaitlin, 22. “The disease aspect comes into that. It’s more than personal choice.”

Tim was involved in his family business with his father at Olson and Associates, and they later formed a restaurant corporation that founded Callaway’s, Foley’s and Tre restaurants, where Tim worked for years, according to his obituary.

He was a great cook and sports enthusiast, known for his longtime devotion to the Pittsburgh Steelers. He coached Lauren’s softball team, took Harrison to Hawaii and was one of Kaitlin’s biggest supporters.

“I want people to know that despite him being an addict, he was the best dad I could have asked for,” said Harrison. “He just wanted us to be happy.”


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