Gov. Justice, Game Changer deliver complete holiday experience to 40 West Virginia families through “Change Their Holiday” promotion


​Through the initiative, dozens of West Virginia families affected by opioid and substance misuse enjoyed a special holiday season​


 Gov. Jim Justice, the “Head Coach and General Manager” of the West Virginia Game Changer initiative, said today that the recently announced “Change Their Holiday” promotion through Game Changer raised over $50,000 in just three-and-a-half weeks leading up to the holidays.

As a result, 40 West Virginia families affected by opioid and substance misuse were able to enjoy a complete holiday experience – down to the presents and the holiday meal – that otherwise might not have been possible.

“Together, we were able to make a real difference in the lives of dozens of families and children all across the state, who may not have been able to fully enjoy the holiday season without a little bit of help,” Gov. Justice said.

“The holidays are a magical time of year. Every single child in West Virginia deserves to experience the joy of unwrapping a great present or enjoying a delicious holiday meal, and every parent in West Virginia deserves to be able to provide these kinds of memories that will last a lifetime,” Gov. Justice continued. “The fact that Game Changer was able to raise this kind of money and pull this off in such a short period of time is a testament to the generosity of all the West Virginians and businesses who helped make this promotion a success. I could not be more proud.”

Gov. Justice announced his commitment to West Virginia Game Changer in July 2020. One of the largest public-private coalitions of its kind in the nation, Game Changer is aimed at tackling opioid and substance misuse, along with other issues impacting West Virginia’s youth.

Through a cooperative effort with Jobs & Hope West Virginia and the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission (WVSSAC) along with major corporate sponsors Walmart, Pepsi, MVB Bank, McDonald’s, The J.W. Ebert Corporation, ParMar-Mountaineer Marts and Aetna Better Health of West Virginia, families throughout the state received an average of $1,200 in gift cards from Walmart, ParMar and Mountaineer Marts and McDonald’s. Many were faced with their children not receiving a visit from Santa Claus or being able to prepare a meal on Christmas Day.
Game Changer media contact:
Joe Boczek
Game Changer Coordinator
Melissa and her family were some of the West Virginians helped by Change Their Holiday. She has five children, including one with autism and another who has ADHD. She has been in recovery from opioid misuse for nearly three years and expects to receive her bachelor’s degree in May. Still, the road has not been easy, as the children’s father lost his job due to the COVID-19 pandemic and they had fallen behind on the rent. Though they were not in danger of going without food, Melissa’s children were facing a Christmas without a visit from Santa.

“The Game Changer Change Their Holiday program came to us like angels from heaven,” Melissa said. “Not only was I speechless when I received the envelope from Ms. Harris, but I had tears streaming down my face. Times have been a little tough and I was so worried I was going to have to explain to the children why Santa never came. Game Changer certainly changed our holiday. My family and I will never be able to thank them enough.”

Bernie Dolan, Executive Director of the WVSSAC, and Don Robinson, Chief Financial Officer and Executive Vice President of MVB Bank – two of the founders of Game Changer – were both ecstatic with the results of the Change Their Holiday program.

“West Virginians helping West Virginians; it can’t get any better,” Dolan said. “Once we get past this COVID situation, the prevention programs and other educational activities we have planned for our schools will be among the best in the nation. I cannot say enough about how well this Game Changer initiative is working out. I would be remiss if I did not thank Governor Justice. His support has been the reason we have been able to take this to another level.”

Robinson, who has eight children of his own, says not only does MVB Bank have a firm commitment to West Virginia, but, as a husband and father, he chose to raise his family here because of the great people and the willingness they have to help.

“What a great teaching tool for my children,” Robinson said. “I mean, for them to be able to see how the people and companies in this state have stepped forward to help those going through some rough times not only makes them more appreciative, but also reinforces what we try to teach them.”

Joe Boczek, who serves as Executive Director of Game Changer, was euphoric at the results.

“People who know me know I am rarely speechless, but I can’t put into words the gratitude I have for our sponsors and the people of this fantastic state, not to mention the feeling I experienced when we were handing out the envelopes,” Boczek said. “The sincere and legitimate appreciation, along with the tears of joy, made this holiday season so special. God Bless Governor Justice for agreeing to help us.”

Lorrie Smith, Program Manager for Jobs & Hope West Virginia, shared Boczek’s enthusiasm and thankfulness for Change Their Holiday.

“There are many challenges when you are in recovery from opioid and substance misuse,” Smith said. “Jobs & Hope is committed to help those in recovery with a plethora of services. Our collaboration with Game Changer is certainly proving to be worthwhile. I see a bright future as we work together and with so many others to help bring families back together again.”

Deborah Harris, Lead Transition Agent for Jobs & Hope, helped hand out envelopes to a number of people and she, too, was nearly speechless at the reaction and appreciation.

“We made a difference in so many people’s lives,” Harris said. “We made sure children had a Christmas and that families could enjoy the holiday season together, away from the tough climb back from such the disease that is opioid and substance misuse. I am already looking to next year, where we can help make Change Their Holiday bigger and better.”

Visit for more information about Game Changer and the Change Their Holiday promotion.
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