Riding to turn addiction around

Megan Watson with husband Ken (centre) and riders Ben Carney (left) and Justin Hawthorne (right) who are riding to raise funds for Yarramundi-based charity One80tc. Photo: Shane Desiatnik

Megan Watson with husband Ken (centre) and riders Ben Carney (left) and Justin Hawthorne (right) who are riding to raise funds for Yarramundi-based charity One80tc. Photo: Shane Desiatnik

They are riding with a mission in mind.

Blaxland family caseworker and chaplain Megan Watson has signed up for the Sydney to the Hunter Cycling Classic to support the lifesaving work of One80TC, a Yarramundi charity whose role is to turn around the lives of men battling addiction.

She is a former worker at the Christian-based organisation and has seen the difference it makes to young men's lives, including her own son Joel's. That son and her husband Ken both now work for "TC" (which stands for Teen Challenge).

The 220km-plus ride over two days next month from Arcadia in Sydney's north-west to former steel city Newcastle won't be any walk in the park for Mrs Watson. But she's been road racing for six years and is now regularly training the necessary 200km each week.

Some of the team gathered at the Watson family's Blaxland home last Thursday to give the Gazette an insight into TC, including 33-year-old Ben Carney and 23-year-old Justin Hawthorne, who have been through the program and are now working as voluntary interns for a year.

"If it wasn't for the [charity] ride, we wouldn't be getting our lives fixed," Mr Hawthorne, a former gang member and reformed drug addict, said. "I was heading nowhere but jail or death."

This year the group hopes their 80-plus riders will raise $250,000 for the 40-bed long-term residential program which costs more than $2 million annually to run and gives men aged 18 to 35 a chance to battle life-controlling problems - drugs, alcohol, gambling or over-eating.

Mr Carney said the program was "a bit of a refuge, a safe haven" and has now given him a "white canvas".

The sommelier was halfway through a degree course in brewing science and working in hospitality, when he "woke up in hospital after overdosing".

"I had hit rock bottom."

He said One80TC was "more than a drug and alcohol program, it's a life training centre. For the first time in my life I feel ready to be a good man and a father."

Mrs Watson said One80 refers to a complete turnaround of 180 degrees, something the charity hopes each person involved experiences. The grandmother has been financially supporting the group, which started in America, since her teens.

"I have an interest in seeing broken men fixed," she said.

"There are local residents who have gone through the program and are now succeeding and making a difference in other's lives," she said.

One80TC students are available to speak to groups, such as schools and churches, to encourage people to get help. For more information or to sponsor the riders go to: www.one80tc.org or call 1800 679 657.

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