John VonEschen EditedOne of Northstar’s primary goals is to provide problem gambling awareness training and education throughout Minnesota. One way it achieves this mission is through a speaker’s network that provides community presentations on the topic of problem gambling.

The newest addition to the speaker’s network is John VonEschen, LMFT, a state problem gambling counselor at Pathways Counseling. His first involvement with Northstar came during National Problem Gambling Awareness Month last year when he spoke to a class of high-risk youth at Hopkins High School. John is in recovery from gambling and alcohol addiction and has worked as a counselor for eight years.

“I know there are a lot of gamblers who are suffering,” says John. “I want to reach as many as possible to make sure they know that help is available before their addiction takes over their lives.”

John will integrate existing curriculums and programs into his talks but much of his presentation is sharing his personal story. “John’s message is powerful because he’s speaking both from his own experience as a recovering gambler and as an informed and practicing counselor,” says Cathie Perrault, Northstar executive director.

“I try to be honest about my own situation,” says John. “It’s a tough thing to admit where your money went when you’re 38, but part of recovery is letting go. With addiction, each story is as unique as the person. There’s no ‘this is how it normally goes.’”

Speakers from the Northstar speakers network are available to discuss problem gambling with community groups and organizations. Past programs have included talks to Rotary and Kiwanis clubs, the Optimists Club, colleges and universities, professionals such as lawyers, addiction counselors and corrections officials.

Programs are generally offered free of charge, though donations to the Northstar Problem Gambling Alliance are always welcome. If you’re interested in having Northstar make a presentation about problem gambling to a professional or lay audience, please call Linda Bisdorf at (612) 424-8595 or email linda@northstarproblemgambling.org.