Skip to main content

Hard lessons and good advice as Kacie's Cause comes to Unionville High School

01/21/2014 01:25PM, Published by ACL, Categories: In Print, News


A display in the hallway held photos of those who have died from drug overdoses, including Kacie Rumford.



By John Chambless

Staff Writer

As the crowd began to fill the small auditorium at Unionville High School on Jan. 16, everyone had to walk past tables that held trifold displays of snapshots. The smiling people in the photos were young – some barely in their teens, others in their twenties and thirties – and they had all been lost to drug abuse. There were far too many of them.

Inside the auditorium, people filled nearly every seat and several stood at the back of the hall as the Kacie's Cause Community Town Hall began. 

Image title

Andy Rumford, of Kennett Square, started Kacie's Cause after his 23-year-old daughter, Kacie, died of a heroin overdose in 2013. The event on Jan. 16 was the eighth large-scale community meeting he has held in Chester County. At each one, he retells the story of how he found her lifeless body in her bedroom. On Jan. 16, some of the words still stuck in his throat as he addressed the crowd. 

“In the United States, 38,000 lives are lost each year to drug overdoses,” Rumford said. “You, as parents, need to change your thinking, or you could be burying your child.”

Kacie's Cause now has three chapters, based in Honey Brook, Oxford and Parkesburg. There are 14 people who keep the group running, and each meeting bring more volunteers – and more people needing help. In the ten months that the kaciescause.com website has been up, it has gotten more than 17,000 hits. 

“This area has a drug and heroin problem,” Rumford said. “The police are doing what they can, but they need help. We all have a common enemy, and that is heroin.”

Moderating the evening was Kacie's Cause member Luis Tovar, who told the crowd that his son

Image title

 is a long-term addict who is in recovery. “How many people here have lost someone to drugs?” Tovar asked. “More than one? How about more than five?” Each time, hands remained raised. 

Chuck Gaza, the Chester County Assistant District Attorney, told the crowd that he met Rumford when Kacie died. He helped find the drugs and empty heroin packets in Kacie's room, and he searched through Kacie's phone to begin tracking down her drug contacts. 

He spoke in favor of House Bill 1164, the so-called Good Samaritan Bill, which would absolve anyone who calls for help when someone is suffering an overdose. “Typically what we hear in overdose cases is, 'I didn't want to get in trouble,'” Gaza said. “Getting in trouble is the least of your problems when someone stops breathing.” The bill has made it through the Pennsylvania Senate and is now in the House.

Image title

In Chester County last year, 21 people died from heroin overdoses, Gaza said. An additional 31 died from prescription drug overdoses. For that reason, the state has put 10 drug drop boxes around Chester County where people can anonymously, and safely, dispose of leftover medications which are frequently a teen's first step toward addiction. 

The typical path, Gaza said, is sneaking some pills from the medicine cabinet. When swallowing the pills begins to not have a strong enough effect, teens crush them and snort them. When they try to buy more drugs like percocet or oxycontin on the street, the high cost turns them instead to heroin, which is being marketed for as little as $7 a bag. “They usually snort it at first, and then they shoot it, if they last that long,” Gaza said.

Instantly addictive, and therefore highly lucrative for dealers, heroin is now the preferred illegal drug, pushing aside cocaine.

One woman in the audience raised her hand and asked if there was heroin use at Unionville High School.

“Yes,” Gaza quickly answered as a few people in the audience gasped. “I can say unequivocally that there is heroin use at Unionville.”

Philadelphia is “one of the largest drug markets in the United States,” and Wilmington is another 

Image title

big supplier, Gaza said. With both cities a short drive away from Chester County, the region is being flooded with heroin. “Heroin is drastically on the rise,” he said. “And it's cheap. A bundle of 12 can cost $20 to $30. The amount of drugs going through this county would astound you.”

Gaza criticized the common practice of doctors and dentists precribing 30 painkillers when only four or five are necessary, leaving the family medicine cabinet full of unused pills. Also, it's common for smaller-scale dealers to get multiple prescriptions at several pharmacies and then sell the pills at a huge profit.

“While you were watching the video at the start of this evening, I got two texts,” Gaza said. “A 25-year-old man just died of an overdose in West Sadsbury. And a girl lost her arm when she crashed her car.” 

Gaza's eyes reddened as he continued, “I really hate coming to your house and ruining your life when your child has died, trying to find out who sold drugs to your kid. But we'll do it. And we'll keep on doing it.”

A woman in the audience told Gaza, “I'm from Unionville, and I have to admit I'm pretty clueless about all this. I have learned a lot in the last half-hour.”
John Sanville, the superintendent of the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District, was in the audience and pointed out that the Pennsylvania Youth Survey which went out last year to all students in grades six, eight, 10 and 12 “showed what risky behaviors our children are involved in. That information is readily available through the district office. … If we find a student with drugs, we do contact the DA, and we do contact the police.”

The surveys showed some students had used alcohol, tobacco and marijuana, but the incidence of hard drugs like heroin was small – about 2 percent or less. Tovar asked Sanville how many students are in the school district, and Sanville told him 4,100. “I applaud the efforts at Unionville, but even 2 percent of 4,100 students is not a low number,” Tovar said. “There's more to do.”

A woman in the audience said her name was Frances and that she has spent 10 years in recovery for alcohol abuse. She attends a regular meeting in Kennett Square, “and we're seeing more and more young kids who need help and have nowhere else to go,” she said. “We're not equipped to help them.”

Dr. Marc Grobman, who specializes in addiction treatment in Wilmington, Del., outlined how opiates affect a person, physically and mentally. “This is a long-term disease, like diabetes or hypertension,” he said. “You're never free of it. … And you can't tell who's going to be an addict.”

A young man stood up in the audience and challenged Grobman, saying that the recovery drugs that Grobman recommended hadn't worked. “I'm a recovering heroin addict. I hate them all,” he said of the range of drug treatments. “None of them helped me. NA (Narcotics Anonymous) helped me. You've got to find the right support network that works for you.”

Another recovering addict, a 19-year-old young woman, told the audience she started using drugs at 15 and has been clean for two and a half years. “I had a friend who was a straight-A student and he tried heroin for the first time and died because the bag had rat poison in it,” she said grimly. “I just want to tell parents that if you catch your kids, keep talking to them. Keep on them. Tell them they don't have to drink at a party – they can just hold a soda. Keep an open relationship with your kids and keep giving them tips.”

That doesn't mean coddling teens who make mistakes, according to Tovar and several of the recovering addicts who spoke.

One young man, Joe, said, “I'm a recovering addict, and I wish my parents had let me sit in jail or spend some time living on the streets when I was using. Man, I would have learned a lot faster.”

In the audience, a young man named Adam said he started using drugs at 13 and has been clean for almost a decade. He is now a counselor who works in drug treatment and prevention. “Addiction is a disease that hides in the shadows,” he said. “The best thing is to keep it in the light.”

While Rumford noted grimly that there was an empty seat at the family table for their first holiday season without Kacie, he told the audience at the end of the meeting that, “Today, everyone is leaving much wiser about this epidemic. This drug is not going to vanish. This meeting was for all of us. Talk to your children, and talk to your neighbors. Be a part of a young girl's dream – Kacie's dream – to make the world a better place.”

For more information, visit www.kaciescause.com.


Like what you're reading? Subscribe to Chester County's free newsletter to catch every headline



unionville high school heroin kacie's cause drugs kacie's cause community town hall


  • The Galer Estate family invites you to join our Wine Club, a community of members who enjoy fine ...


  • Children’s I-Spy Birding

    05/28/2016
    09:00AM — 10:30AM

    The last Saturday of the month from 9am-10:30am. Join local birding expert and environmental edu...


  • Herp Search

    05/28/2016
    02:00PM — 04:00PM

    With Gary Stolz, Naturalist Saturday, May 28th from 2:00PM-4:00PM Location: Bucktoe Creek Prese...


  • Brad and Dad Duo At Kreutz Creek

    05/28/2016
    07:00PM — 10:00PM

    Come join us for a night of wine and Music May 28th at the Kreutz Creek Wine Tasting Room in West...


  • The Galer Estate family invites you to join our Wine Club, a community of members who enjoy fine ...


  • Debtors Anonymous

    05/30/2016
    06:00PM — 07:00PM

    In D.A., our purpose is threefold: to stop incurring unsecured debt, to share our experience wit...


  • The Galer Estate family invites you to join our Wine Club, a community of members who enjoy fine ...


  • Pajama Storytime

    06/01/2016
    06:30PM — 07:30PM

    Wednesdays at 6:30 PM - Join us for an evening of stories, songs, crafts, and fun to end your day...


  • Pro-Act's Family Education Program

    06/01/2016
    07:00PM — 09:00PM

    When someone is addicted to drugs & alcohol, the diease affects the entire family. Each month PR...


  • The Galer Estate family invites you to join our Wine Club, a community of members who enjoy fine ...


  • Drop in on Nature

    06/02/2016
    09:30AM — 12:00PM

    oin TLC for our Drop-In on Nature Playgroup! This program is designed for children 0-Kindergarten...


  • Clutterers Anonymous

    06/02/2016
    06:00PM — 07:00PM

    Clutterers Anonymous℠ (CLA℠) is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strengt...


  • The Galer Estate family invites you to join our Wine Club, a community of members who enjoy fine ...


  • Children’s I-Spy Birding

    05/28/2016
    09:00AM — 10:30AM

    The last Saturday of the month from 9am-10:30am. Join local birding expert and environmental edu...


  • Herp Search

    05/28/2016
    02:00PM — 04:00PM

    With Gary Stolz, Naturalist Saturday, May 28th from 2:00PM-4:00PM Location: Bucktoe Creek Prese...


  • Brad and Dad Duo At Kreutz Creek

    05/28/2016
    07:00PM — 10:00PM

    Come join us for a night of wine and Music May 28th at the Kreutz Creek Wine Tasting Room in West...


  • The Galer Estate family invites you to join our Wine Club, a community of members who enjoy fine ...


  • Downingtown Fine Arts Festival

    05/29/2016
    10:00AM — 05:00PM

    The work of 40 professional artists from all over the United States will converge upon Downingtow...


  • Taste Kennett Food Tours

    05/29/2016
    01:00PM — 04:00PM

    Taste Kennett Food Tours, creators of memorable, unique and fun food experiences, offer three-hou...


  • Twistback Center For The Arts Inaugural Spring Arts Wine and Music Festival will be held on the T...


  • The Galer Estate family invites you to join our Wine Club, a community of members who enjoy fine ...


  • Debtors Anonymous

    05/30/2016
    06:00PM — 07:00PM

    In D.A., our purpose is threefold: to stop incurring unsecured debt, to share our experience wit...


  • The Galer Estate family invites you to join our Wine Club, a community of members who enjoy fine ...


  • The Galer Estate family invites you to join our Wine Club, a community of members who enjoy fine ...


  • Pajama Storytime

    06/01/2016
    06:30PM — 07:30PM

    Wednesdays at 6:30 PM - Join us for an evening of stories, songs, crafts, and fun to end your day...


  • Pro-Act's Family Education Program

    06/01/2016
    07:00PM — 09:00PM

    When someone is addicted to drugs & alcohol, the diease affects the entire family. Each month PR...


  • The Galer Estate family invites you to join our Wine Club, a community of members who enjoy fine ...


  • Drop in on Nature

    06/02/2016
    09:30AM — 12:00PM

    oin TLC for our Drop-In on Nature Playgroup! This program is designed for children 0-Kindergarten...


  • Clutterers Anonymous

    06/02/2016
    06:00PM — 07:00PM

    Clutterers Anonymous℠ (CLA℠) is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strengt...


  • The Galer Estate family invites you to join our Wine Club, a community of members who enjoy fine ...


  • Kennett/Unionville Relay for Life

    06/03/2016
    06:00PM — 08:00AM

    At Relay For Life events, communities across the globe come together to honor cancer survivors, r...


  • The Galer Estate family invites you to join our Wine Club, a community of members who enjoy fine ...


  • On June 4th, 2016, The Octorara School District will be hosting the 2nd Annual Octorara Angels Ra...


  • PurpleStride Delaware 2016 - 5K Run/Walk

    06/04/2016
    08:00AM — 12:00PM

    PurpleStride Delaware is back and better than ever! This year, our 5K run and family-friendly wal...


  • Chester County Blues Barbecue

    06/04/2016
    02:00PM — 07:00PM

    The 7th Annual Chester County Blues Barbecue once again comes to Wyndsor Farm in beautiful northe...


  • Herp Search

    06/04/2016
    05:00PM — 07:00PM

    Don’t miss this opportunity to explore the interesting world of the mysterious Reptiles and Amphi...


  • June Barn Dance

    06/04/2016
    08:00PM — 10:00PM

    Experience the culture in agriculture at Coverdale Farm Preserve's Saturday barn dance! Bluegrass...


  • The Galer Estate family invites you to join our Wine Club, a community of members who enjoy fine ...


  • Steamin' Days at Auburn Heights

    06/05/2016
    12:30PM — 04:30PM

    Join us on the first Sundays, June through November for Steamin’ Days at Auburn Heights, when the...


  • Birthday Bash at Auburn Heights

    06/05/2016
    12:30PM — 04:30PM

    In today’s disposable culture, it is not very common for anything to celebrate its 100th birthday...


  • Taste Kennett Food Tours

    06/05/2016
    01:00PM — 04:00PM

    Taste Kennett Food Tours, creators of memorable, unique and fun food experiences, offer three-hou...


  • The Galer Estate family invites you to join our Wine Club, a community of members who enjoy fine ...


  • Debtors Anonymous

    06/06/2016
    06:00PM — 07:00PM

    In D.A., our purpose is threefold: to stop incurring unsecured debt, to share our experience wit...


  • The Galer Estate family invites you to join our Wine Club, a community of members who enjoy fine ...


  • Selling American Innovation

    06/07/2016
    07:00PM — 08:00PM

    Join Tom Marshall, founder of Friends of Auburn Heights Preserve, as he shares stories from his l...


  • The Galer Estate family invites you to join our Wine Club, a community of members who enjoy fine ...


  • Pajama Storytime

    06/08/2016
    06:30PM — 07:30PM

    Wednesdays at 6:30 PM - Join us for an evening of stories, songs, crafts, and fun to end your day...


  • Pro-Act's Family Education Program

    06/08/2016
    07:00PM — 09:00PM

    When someone is addicted to drugs & alcohol, the diease affects the entire family. Each month PR...


  • The Galer Estate family invites you to join our Wine Club, a community of members who enjoy fine ...


  • Drop in on Nature

    06/09/2016
    09:30AM — 12:00PM

    oin TLC for our Drop-In on Nature Playgroup! This program is designed for children 0-Kindergarten...


  • Clutterers Anonymous

    06/09/2016
    06:00PM — 07:00PM

    Clutterers Anonymous℠ (CLA℠) is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strengt...


  • The Galer Estate family invites you to join our Wine Club, a community of members who enjoy fine ...


  • The Galer Estate family invites you to join our Wine Club, a community of members who enjoy fine ...


  • The Galer Estate family invites you to join our Wine Club, a community of members who enjoy fine ...


  • Race to Beat POTS 5K

    06/12/2016
    10:00AM — 11:30AM

    Kennett Square will be home to a walk and run to raise awareness for Postural Orthostatic Tachyca...


  • Taste Kennett Food Tours

    06/12/2016
    01:00PM — 04:00PM

    Taste Kennett Food Tours, creators of memorable, unique and fun food experiences, offer three-hou...


  • Join St. Anthony’s Church as we celebrate the art, culture, traditions and excitement of the Rena...


  • oin St. Anthony’s Church as we celebrate the art, culture, traditions and excitement of the Renai...


  • The Galer Estate family invites you to join our Wine Club, a community of members who enjoy fine ...


  • Debtors Anonymous

    06/13/2016
    06:00PM — 07:00PM

    In D.A., our purpose is threefold: to stop incurring unsecured debt, to share our experience wit...


  • The Galer Estate family invites you to join our Wine Club, a community of members who enjoy fine ...


  • The Galer Estate family invites you to join our Wine Club, a community of members who enjoy fine ...


  • Pajama Storytime

    06/15/2016
    06:30PM — 07:30PM

    Wednesdays at 6:30 PM - Join us for an evening of stories, songs, crafts, and fun to end your day...


  • Pro-Act's Family Education Program

    06/15/2016
    07:00PM — 09:00PM

    When someone is addicted to drugs & alcohol, the diease affects the entire family. Each month PR...


  • The Galer Estate family invites you to join our Wine Club, a community of members who enjoy fine ...


  • Drop in on Nature

    06/16/2016
    09:30AM — 12:00PM

    oin TLC for our Drop-In on Nature Playgroup! This program is designed for children 0-Kindergarten...


  • Clutterers Anonymous

    06/16/2016
    06:00PM — 07:00PM

    Clutterers Anonymous℠ (CLA℠) is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strengt...


  • The Galer Estate family invites you to join our Wine Club, a community of members who enjoy fine ...


  • The Galer Estate family invites you to join our Wine Club, a community of members who enjoy fine ...


  • Medicinal Plant Walk

    06/18/2016
    09:00AM — 12:00PM

    Saturday, June 18th, 2016 from 9:00AM-12:00PM Location: Bucktoe Creek Preserve (432 Sharp Road, ...


Chester County High School Sports