Substance abuse foundation expanding, bringing new scholarships to North Florida

Riley Platt, Sports Editor

The Mark Garwood Foundation, which helps past substance addicts attend college through a variety of initiatives, is expanding its efforts to North Florida by bringing scholarships for students seeking a fresh start.

The foundation began the Phoenix Scholarship in 2015, and has awarded over $325,000 to 51 different people in search of higher education in South Florida. Now, they will be offering $5,000 scholarships to five Jacksonville locals who are recovering from substance abuse and are looking to either begin or resume their educational journey.

While the University of North Florida and Florida State College of Jacksonville are institutions of focus, scholarship applications are not limited to just those two. Anyone living in Duval, Nassau or Clay counties are encouraged to apply.

Erica (left) and John Garwood (right). Photo courtesy the Mark Garwood Foundation.

The foundation’s mission is “to reach individuals battling the devastating effects of substance use disorder and to provide some measure of direct assistance,” according to its website. For John and Erica Garwood, this mission is deeply personal.

Mark, their son, became addicted to pain medications after being assaulted in college. He eventually overcame his addiction, but died at just 24 years old due to complications resulting from his addiction and type 1 diabetes, which he was diagnosed with as a teenager.

“The Mark Garwood Foundation was established to honor Mark’s life by providing a way forward for young men and women who are earnestly working toward a sober and productive future,” their website reads. “If we can reach one individual…save one life…ease one person’s struggle back to sobriety, then Mark’s legacy will be well-served.”

Through this, the Garwoods were inspired to offer help for those who also faced the same challenges as their son. They believe that education has the ability to turn one’s life around, even in the most dire of circumstances.

“Education is proving to be a powerful incentive for adults in recovery to maintain long-term sobriety,” said John Garwood, the vice president of the Mark Garwood Foundation. “It rebuilds self-esteem and self-worth and develops accountability in individuals who are determined to find a productive and sober future.”

On top of the scholarships, the foundation also offers services such as sober living residences and clean start backpacks, which provide essential items for those seeking rehabilitation who do not have the resources to get them.

The Mark Garwood Foundation's logo.
The Mark Garwood Foundation’s logo. (Courtesy of the Mark Garwood Foundation)

The deadline to apply for the Phoenix Scholarship is June 15 and those interested in applying can visit their website for needed forms.

The Garwood’s will decide on recipients in early July, with a presentation ceremony happening later that month. The foundation is currently looking at Jacksonville venues to host the ceremony.


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