Vendor booths and demonstrations were scattered across the Clark Wood Elementary School complex Saturday, Sept. 28 for the Rally for Serenity Fall Festival.

Alicia Floerchinger and Stevia Swimley organized the outreach event in conjunction with the Serenity Scholarship as part of their senior project. Saturday’s event raised $2,600 for the Serenity Scholarship which was created after the death of Floerchinger’s brother in 2018.

The CDC reported 70,237 drug overdose deaths occurred in the United States in 2017. Opioids — mainly synthetic opioids (other than methadone) — are currently the main driver of drug overdose deaths. Opioids were involved in 47,600 overdose deaths in 2017. The Serenity Scholarship helps to raise awareness for addiction and co-occuring mental health disorders and provides a scholarship for someone who has successfully completed rehabilitation.

The Rally for Serenity Fall Festival was an opportunity for individuals to donate to the scholarship as well as enjoy a day of activities.

Alongside vendors were numerous resource tents for anyone who needed to talk about someone they love or anyone looking for help. Agencies with tents at the festival were: Tioga County Partnership for Community Health, Celebrate Recovery, Corning Community College’s Collegiate Recovery Center and CASA Trinity.

Organizers and staff wore blue shirts with the lotus symbol emblazoned on the front, symbolizing rebirth and growing into something beautiful. As Floerchinger said, “It’s knowing that you can go from a dark place and move into the light.”

Arranging the vendors and sponsors took months of work from the Cowanesque Valley High School juniors. Floerchinger and Swimley have already surpassed the hours necessary for their senior projects, but being able to organize and participate in an event like this, is a reward in itself, they said.

“This is my way of helping out with the scholarship and spreading awareness,” Floerchinger said, adding, “I feel like my brother is looking down and is proud of me and is proud of what I’m doing.”

Though preparing for the festival was at times overwhelming, the juniors were happy with the turnout. Their hard work going into the day was also noticed by members of the community.

“There was a man yesterday that came up to us and said he was glad we were doing something like this in Elkland because we need it here. We have had a lot of people thank us for doing this and that they appreciate it,” Swimley said.

The girls hope to make the festival an annual event.

For more information about the Serenity Scholarship or support services visit the website at www.serenityscholarship.com.