The Right Path

MARIETTA – Locals gobbled down crispy fried fish, coleslaw and homemade french fries Friday evening in support of the Right Path for Washington County’s sixth annual Fish Fry fundraiser at the Marietta VFW.

As one of three fundraisers the organization puts on annually, the $10 per person ticket got an attendee a full, all-you-can-eat meal of fried fish, coleslaw, french fries, rolls and baked beans, along with a silent auction and live entertainment from local musician Billy Reiter.

The coalition is a program that aims to provide prevention services and programming that focuses on drug-free activities, youth-adult partnerships and community service to put young people onto good paths for their lifetimes.

The fish fry, which Right Path coordinator Cathy Harper said typically brings in just more than $3,000 annually, is one of just a few fundraisers that keeps the coalition running.

“We get some money from United Way, but everything else comes from fundraising, so this is an important part of the year,” she said. “It’s great to see everyone out here to support it, because we all share the same goal, and everyone goes above and beyond to meet it.”

Just prior to the fish fry, the organization held its annual spaghetti dinner in April and holds a winter music event before that, but is ready to launch into summer when children and teens have more free time.

“Kids are the focal point of everything we do, and it’s all about helping them make good decisions and helping them getting involved with the community,” Harper said. “We want kids to get that pro-social experience.”

Beginning June 10, the Right Path will begin holding its weekly drug-free dance nights at the Gathering Place at Marietta College every Tuesday night throughout summer.

Then on June 13, the organization will kick off its Teen and Family Swim Nights at the Marietta Aquatic Center every Friday night throughout the summer, culminating in an end-of-summer block party at the center in mid-August, which Harper said usually brings in about 350 people.

Right Path works alongside a long list of partners and community organizations, and boasts a board that includes recent graduates of the Right Path program, along with the program’s youth participants that help organize the events throughout the year.

“The kids do so much of this, and they really are an integral part of everything,” Harper said.

At the VFW, fish fries are held on a regular basis, but people did not just turn out in crowds for the fish on Friday.

“People are so supportive of this, and that’s what makes it great,” said Right Path Board President Dee W. Standish. “It will fill up because everyone wants to support us.”

Gary Williams, the executive director for foundation and grant development at Washington State Community College, attends the fish fry every year with his wife, MaryAnne, as an extension of the partnership the program has with WSCC.

“Cathy is a great resource to this community, so we always make sure to do anything we can to help her,” Williams said. “And we support what Right Path is doing for the community.”

The Right Path program, which provides in-school drug and alcohol free programs, community outreach to match youth with service opportunities, and a summer radio campaign where students talk about the coalition’s messages in support of their peers, is open to those in grades six through 12 in Washington County and surrounding counties.

Harper said the amount of students in the program has fluctuated annually since the program was formed a decade ago.

“We come to fish fries at the VFW all the time, but this is a special one,” said Marietta resident Louise Gwinn. “We don’t have any teenage children anymore, but we understand that it’s an important program for our youth.”