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Sunrise Centre hopes to bring Herren to Alpena

October 25, 2012
James Andersen - News Sports Editor , The Alpena News

As a recovering drug addict, Alina Branscombe was touched by the story of Chris Herren, a former NBA star who struggled with substance abuse for much of his career.

"As a recovering addict myself, the story itself was very compelling to me. His story is certainly not unique in the substance abuse aspect as far as the using, and the fact that he had such a career and he chose to toss all of that for drugs," Branscombe said. "He went from everything to having nothing. He was so into basketball and maintained an addiction throughout that whole thing. To be successful and to throw that all away and now be able to speak on it, is what was so compelling to me."

Now Branscombe and the Sunrise Centre want to bring Herren to Alpena to share his message with high school athletes and those who are struggling with or recovering from substance abuse.

Ginny French, who is a case manager for the Sunrise Centre, said it will take about $14,000 to bring Herren to Alpena. While the center has donated some money and does have some money from organizations such as the Community Foundation for Northeast Michigan, it also will take donations from local residents to bring Herren to Alpena. French said the event will be free and she's hoping to bring Herren to town early next year.

It's French's hope that Herren's message of prevention connects with people, especially high school students as 90 percent of all addictions start in teenage years.

"If we spend $14,000 and touch 14 people and prevent 14 people (from turning to substance abuse), it's money well spent," French said. "That's all we can do is get the message out and get people to realize that it doesn't matter, whether you have all the money in the world or no money, if you have support, you can still recover."

Herren played briefly with two NBA teams including the Boston Celtics and struggled with substance abuse for much for his career. Last year he released a memoir, Basketball Junkie, which details his struggles with substance abuse. Today he shares his story nationwide and his story also was detailed in a recent ESPN documentary.

It's a story that resonated deeply with Branscombe, who developed an addiction to heroin at age 19. Over the next several years, Branscombe spent time in different rehabs and jails before coming to the Sunrise Centre last September, where she got serious about her recovery.

"I went through the program and I did whatever I had to do to change my life. I met some wonderful people and I didn't think that was possible," Branscombe said. "My recovery is a gift."

Branscombe, who is studying to become a substance abuse counselor, said Herren's story also provided a lesson in the importance of keeping her own children away from the dangers of substance abuse.

"It gave me a sense of hope. Both of my kids are into sports and I would like to prevent that happening to my own children," Branscombe said.

Any with wishing to donate money for the event or with questions can contact French at 356-6649 ext. 11 or e-mail Branscombe can be contacted at

Money can be sent to the Sunrise Centre, 630 Walnut St, Alpena MI 49707.

James Andersen can be reached via email at or by phone at 358-5694.



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