Meet Leon Fooksman, Our Social Media Connector
Since 2008, Leon Fooksman has been NOPE Task Force’s social media and storytelling director. He’s written thousands of posts on social media and dozens of stories for our website. We asked him to share his experiences and lessons learned from being NOPE’s key connector with our supporters.
Here’s what he wrote.
We’ve always focused our digital marketing on one clear outcome: educating parents about the dangers of their children abusing drugs.
In late 2000s, I worked with NOPE’s Executive Director Karen Perry in rolling out a new website, starting a websites series about NOPE supporters and influencers, and, most importantly, developing a strong presence on Facebook and Twitter. We set out to create a place online to provide information and share experiences in the hopes of preventing more tragedies and helping families cope with their losses.
It worked. Pretty soon, a community of parents, teachers, principals, police officers and other supporters turned to us for news and resources related to drug abuse. It was the early days of the opioid problems which eventually morphed into a full blown epidemic, and people came to us from across the U.S. searching for answers and support. Many had lost loved ones and they wanted to know how to live again without the presence of a son, daughter, brother, sister, aunt, uncle, wife or husband.
As tragedies worsened, hundreds of people, and eventually thousands, connected with us daily, monthly and annually. Many asked questions and we answered them. Others joined us in advocating for stronger laws to reduce drug overdoses. Some were looking to do something even more meaningful and start their own NOPE Task Force chapters across the nation. But most of all, people just wanted to find a community -- a place online where they can share their stories, vent their anger, and support one another.
Just about every day on our social media, people posted deeply personal stories as a way to warn others about drug abuse or remember their loved ones. It was wonderful to see other NOPE supporters respond to them and send their best, even if they were perfect strangers to each other. That’s what a community does.
On a personal note, it’s been really meaningful for me to lead these efforts. I’ve learned a lot about what it’s like to live with grief, and how hard it is to move on with life after losing so much. It’s also been inspiring for me to connect with people who have found a way to move past their pains and find joy again and even love in the most unexpected places.
As a father of two young boys, my daily work of handling NOPE’s social media exposed me to news and information about the latest issues related to opioids and overdoses, and I used a lot of the knowledge in making decisions that steered my kids away from the dangers. But I also learned from communicating with many NOPE families that there are no guarantees in protecting your children from drugs, despite your best efforts. Our world can be a harsh place and it’s nearly impossible to keep children away from bad influences which bombarded them daily on all forms of media.
NOPE’s anti-drug initiatives have been a meaningful part of my life. I’m grateful for the opportunities to learn so much. I look forward to continuing to expand our digital community and making a difference in the lives of all of our families.