MORGANTOWN — The Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs will host the first Game Changer Golf Classic and Opioid and Substance Misuse Prevention Education Luncheon on May 26-27.

Alabama head football coach Nick Saban and his wife, Terry, will return to their native West Virginia as special guests. The event is held to raise awareness of the growing opioid and substance misuse problem in West Virginia and to raise the necessary funding to assist Game Changer, presented by the West Virginia Drug Intervention Institute and through a partnership with Hazelden/Betty Ford Foundation.

The funding will be used to develop cutting-edge Opioid and Substance Misuse Prevention Education Programs for youth in schools, in consultation with Help and Hope WV and the state’s six Prevention Lead Organizations.

Saban is considered by many as one of the greatest football coaches of all time, with seven national championships and an overall coaching record of 256-65-1. He and Terry were born and raised in Monongah and Fairmont, Marion County, respectively. Long proponents of giving something back, especially to kids through the Nick’s Kids Foundation, the Sabans accepted the invitation to attend the Game Changer event as special guests.

“The Opioid Crisis must be met head on, or we stand the chance of losing a generation of our kids,” Saban said. “Terry and I have fond memories of our time growing up in West Virginia, and look forward to the opportunity to come back and try and do our part to help the kids and families in West Virginia.”

Terry Saban echoed her husband’s thoughts to help those in a state.

“As a former teacher, I have an affinity for children everywhere,” she said. “Being born and raised in West Virginia, I have a special place in my heart for the children of this great state. The opioid and substance misuse crisis destroys families and negatively impacts the communities where Nick and I grew up and where our families still live today. We can’t and won’t stand idly by without trying to do our part.”

West Virginia Governor Jim Justice agreed to serve as head coach and general manager of Game Changer Initiative last July.

“I mean what can I say but how fortunate and thankful we are that coach Saban and Terry have agreed to join us as special guests for this event. To have perhaps the greatest college football coach of all time, but more importantly, two wonderful human beings born and raised in our great state, to care enough to come back and help us on this project has me speechless.”

United States Senator and former Governor Joe Manchin, also a native of Marion County (Farmington) and a long-time friend of Saban, also plans to attend, along with his wife, Gayle Manchin.

“I wouldn’t miss this event for the world,” Manchin said. “The Game Changer Initiative is such a fantastic movement working for such a vital cause, and Gayle and I are committed to doing anything we can to help. We are obviously looking forward to seeing Nick and Terry and more importantly helping to raise the necessary funds needed to implement the cutting-edge Prevention Education Curriculum being designed by the wonderful folks at the Hazelden/Betty Ford Foundation, with all the wonderful Prevention Specialists in our state.”

Joe Boczek, executive director and one of the three founders of Game Changer, along with WVSSAC executive director Bernie Dolan and MVB Bank executive vice president and CFO Don Robinson, are overwhelmed by support.

“It is almost surreal and no doubt the result of some major divine intervention,” Boczek said. “To have so many people from so many places starting with Governor Justice and the First Lady and Senator Manchin and Gayle, along with people like coach Saban and Terry willing to take time for two days and come to help, really touches my heart in a big way. Other West Virginians, people from all over the country, as well as companies and corporations are reaching out to the Game Changer team. This is not only overwhelming but very gratifying. The children of West Virginia are very lucky to have so many people who care about them.”

The event, sponsored by MVB Bank, kicks off May 26, with a social and dinner featuring remarks from Justice, Manchin, and Nick and Terry Saban, culminating with the naming of the first Game Changer of the Year. The golf event, athletic challenge of fishing, Jeep driving, and shooting for non-golfers, begin with a breakfast at 7:30 a.m. on May 27. The 18-hole Golf Scramble on The Greenbrier’s Old White Course begins with a shotgun start at 9 a.m.

The Opioid and Substance Misuse Prevention Education Luncheon will be sponsored by The Hazelden/Betty Ford Foundation. It will be hosted by Cathy Justice, featuring educators and prevention specialists from throughout West Virginia and the nation and coordinated by the staff at the Hazelden/Betty Ford. It is scheduled for 10 a.m.-noon on May 27. The luncheon will include an introductory video detailing the Game Changer Initiative, along with a detailed presentation outlining the prevention education curriculum designed for students in West Virginia schools.

Updates on confirmed attendees will be released on a weekly basis. Game Changer, through a partnership with the Hazelden/Betty Ford Foundation, is a cooperative effort between the Governor’s Office, WVSSAC, the West Virginia Department of Education, the West Virginia Office of Drug Control Policy, the West Virginia Drug Intervention Institute, Help and Hope WV, and the state’s six Prevention Lead Organizations. WV Game Changer is a “youth-led, adult-based, prevention, peer-to-peer influence, positive youth development, and community enhancement initiative designed to educate, support and empower youth to make healthy choices as they prepare to be our leaders of tomorrow.”

To register for the event or become a Game Changer sponsor, visit wvgamechanger.com or email joeb@wvgamechanger.