Helen Ross McNabb supporters take part in WBIR Torch Run

The WBIR Torch Run Thursday benefited United Way and some of the runners took a leg of the relay to show support for a specific United Way agency. One of those groups ran for Helen Ross McNabb.

The agency serves people like Jon Markley.

He grew up in a loving home in Blount County. But Jon Markley says he was a rebellious teen.

"My 18th birthday I moved out that night. Started going to my friend's house that night. Started doing marijuana. From then on it was house to house to house," he said. "I started getting in to illegal drugs, illegal activity, and ended up homeless and living on the street."

A youth advocate from the Helen Ross McNabb Center approached him at KARM and persuaded him to embrace the organization's transitional living program on Dameron Avenue. He lives in an apartment surrounded by a support network.

"If I have any struggles with my addiction I can go talk to them. I am up front with it. They know I have it. And they're willing to help me the best they can," he said.

He stay in transitional housing for up to 18 months. The whole mission is to help young people like Jon get back on their feet.

"One of the biggest hidden epidemics is homeless youth these days. And if our youth are transitioning and we want them to become good citizens and working citizens and individuals who have education, they're going to really need some guidance and direction and that's what we're able to offer here," Rebecca Kelly Cardona said.

She is the Clinical Director.

"Without the community's support and without United Way there's no way that we would be able to reach out to these youth, bring them in off the streets, and really help them have a second chance at life," she said.

Jon Markley is making the most of that second chance to overcome addiction.

"Six and a half months clean," he said.

They've opened a window to new opportunities.

"They motivated me to get a job. I got a job. Not a stable job but it's a job. And hopefully I finish my schooling," he said.

He's forever grateful for the caring people at Helen Ross McNabb.

"If I was still probably at KARM I would have probably already relapsed and I would have been back out on the street and honestly I probably wouldn't be alive today," he said.


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