Gary Verslues, Principal

“I’m not here to talk at you. I’m not with the sheriff’s department or the police department. I’m not here to shove some DARE program down your throat. I’M JUST A HUMBLE MAN HERE TO TELL YOU MY STORY.”

I didn’t think the 420 high school students in the gymnasium could get any more quiet, but they did when Jim Marshall began his message with his opening lines above. For the next 45 minutes, you could have heard a pin drop as students were riveted on Jim and his story about his son, Cody.

Jim chronicles the timeline of his son’s overdose and along the way parallels his difficult times with messages to students and adults about learning how to cope. It was scary, but yet powerful to hear Jim recant a story a former student of his shared with him. This former student, a college pre-med student, talked about how prevalent OTC drug abuse was among some of the brightest students on campus. Jim went on to share how expensive this habit of OTC abuse became and then how the students would go from OTC medications to heroin because it was cheaper and easier to get. Jim talked about how alarming this trend is becoming due to the fact that heroin use can be ten times more dangerous.

If you schedule just one speaker this next school year for students to learn about the dangers of substance abuse, it needs to be Jim Marshall. A retired high school teacher of 30 years and a father who tried to resuscitate his son from a drug overdose, Jim Marshall knows how to deliver a powerful message that will have a lasting impact on students.

Gary Verslues, Principal
Blair Oaks High School – Jefferson City, Missouri

Julie Gramlich, Founder Anne Marie Project

There is no way to begin to imagine the loss of a child unless you have lived it. I have been fortunate in that respect thus far in the lives of my daughters. As a youth minister,and founder of the Anne Marie Project as well as a parent i realize more than ever how much danger is out there for our young children when it comes to drugs and alcohol consumption in our community.

I first met Coach Marshall after listening to him speak at a City wide HOPE campaign held here in Jefferson City. My heart was breaking over what i heard. Listening to Jim speak about the coarse of events leading up to the death of his son Cody,made me wake up to the facts and truth about what our children are faced with that lead them to drugs and bad behavior.

Working with our youth within the Catholic community here in Jefferson City as a youth minister has been one way i have been able to try and reach the ones that are troubled and are trying to cope with life’s adversities.

I asked Coach Marshall to come and speak with our 8th grade class at St.Joseph Cathedral to enlighten them as to what is out there in their own neighborhoods. What they will encounter as a high school student and how to do something positive about it!

Hearing a young student tell his parents how sad it was and how scary it is to know these things happen where he lives and that he wants to make sure his friends believe the same things he does when it comes to never doing drugs and being a voice for others made me realize how the Community awareness needs to be more forthcoming. This is what Coach Marshall and Cody’s Gift can do here in Jefferson City and elsewhere. We plan to have Coach come every year to speak to our junior high about the dangers and consequences of drugs. To give witness to these young people of Cody’s death and how it happened just might save another life.

Julie Gramlich
Founder Anne Marie Project- A non for profit coalition through the Dept.of Drugs & Alcohol
Cathedral of St. Joseph Youth Minister

Janet Wear-Enloe, CMSR

We thoroughly appreciated the information and insight Jim Marshall provided about prescription drug abuse, particularly among young people. It was shocking and informative. He did a great job answering the many questions that followed his presentation. I would highly recommend parents, grandparents, and health care providers take advantage of the information that Jim Marshall has gathered regarding this topic. He was an excellent speaker.

Janet Wear-Enloe, CMSR
Chief Marketing Officer
Jefferson City Medical Group (JCMG)

Stan Ochsner, Dean of Students

Coach Jim Marshall suffered one of the most horrible tragedies any parent can imagine when his son, Cody, died of a drug overdose. Rather than lapsing into depression or personal destruction, Jim, being the remarkable competitor he has always been, decided to fight back and to use his heartbreak to try to make the world better for others.

He has since relentlessly and avidly used every opportunity to share his and Cody’s stories in the hope of touching others who either are or could be susceptible to the same misfortune. Unfortunately today that includes all of us.

As the Dean of Students at Helias Catholic High School in Jefferson City, I invited Jim to speak with our students at an all-school assembly. He was excellent! The fervor he exhibited for his cause, the pain and anguish he displayed at the loss of his son, his knowledge of the drug culture, and the hope he inspires were all sincerely and movingly presented. It would be difficult to imagine that anyone, including kids, who hears his story and sees his passion would not be moved.

I would wholeheartedly recommend Jim as a speaker for groups of all ages. His message is real and poignant and effective!

Stan Ochsner
Dean of Students at Helias Catholic High School -Jefferson City, Missouri

Brenda Schell, Director

Jim is a zealous and passionate speaker! As a father who lost his son, Cody, to a drug overdose, Jim has taken his experience and used it to educate thousands of people about the deadly dangers of drugs. Jim’s mission is to save lives by educating communities on the dangers of drugs. Jim was instrumental in getting Project HOPE (Heroin Overdose Prevention and Education) to local communities throughout Mid Missouri. Through his efforts, drug overdoses have significantly decreased and we are getting more phone calls from kids who want and need help to kick their drug addiction. Through his heart-rending and passionate testimony, Jim shares the need for peers, parents, and the community at large to help combat this drug epidemic. As he states “it will take us all”! His passion for saving lives comes through loud and clear during his presentations! Using his motivational and educational skills, Jim continues to engage audiences of all ages.

Brenda Schell
Director, Missouri Recovery Network

James Myers, M.Ed., LPC, Executive Director

Coach Marshall has a unique ability to reach kids and parents with his thoughtful, personal message. I have witnessed his ability to capture and maintain audience attention with large school assemblies, parent and community meetings, and small groups of struggling youth. His passion to reach everyone in the room is evident as he courageously shares what he has learned from his tragic, personal loss. Coach Marshall’s call to action effectively inspires his audience to not only refrain from substance abuse, but also motivates them to take responsibility in helping others experience life and success without drugs.

James A. “Jamie” Myers, M.Ed., LPC, Executive Director
Prevention Consultants of Missouri

Dr. Deanne Fisher, JCAC Principal

In the spring of 1985, I received a letter from a Coach Jim Marshall suggesting that I run high school cross country and track. He stated in the letter that he had been impressed with my times and thought it would be a great opportunity for me. That letter was the beginning of a great relationship I have had with Jim Marshall for the past 28 years. During that time, he has helped me through many life changes; from graduating high school, running in college, having my daughter, getting my first teaching and coaching job, and finally to my current position as principal of our district’s alternative school. Jim Marshall has been a constant in my life as my coach, my mentor, and my friend. I have learned from him the value of hard work, commitment to myself and others, perseverance, and forgiveness. In 2011, Jim’s son Cody passed away from a drug overdose. That experience changed his life forever because he not only lost his only son but he lost a part of himself. All that he had worked for during his life seemed lost at the time of his son’s death. Shortly after his son’s death, Jim came and spoke to the student body at the Jefferson City Academic Center (the alternative school) about the character trait forgiveness. During his talk, he shared the turmoil he experienced personally over his son’s death and what he had to do in order to survive such a horrific event. He chose to forgive, not only himself by to forgive Cody. He shared all is feelings and emotions with our students. During that talk, I feel Jim started the slow journey to finding ways to use this life-changing event to help others. Many of our students knew Cody and were his friends, so the emotions hit home with our students. As a result, many students have reached out to Jim for advice and support who wouldn’t had done that with an adult before….and for many students it saved their life. I have always looked up to Jim Marshall because of his strong sense of character and pride in everything aspect of his life. Through this experience I have developed even more respect for a man who has gone above and beyond to mentor and mold me into the person I am today and now finding the strength to share his story about Cody. By Jim sharing his story with as many who will listen it will help children in our own community and possibly yours from becoming another statistic.

Thank you Coach Jim Marshall for what you have done for me personally and what you will do through codysgift.org to help others in need of support and advice.

Dr. Deanne Fisher, JCAC Principal
Former Jefferson City High School Coach and Athlete

Bob McKune, Phelps County Prevention Director

First, thank you for your appearance at our Anti-Heroin Town Hall meeting in Rolla.

Those who heard you wish that every student from about 4th grade through high school could hear just how deadly drugs can be. One mistake can result in a ruined or a lost life.

Your unique personal perspective touched a lot of people very deeply here that night, and beyond that your many years as an educator gives you an understanding of young people that many of us never acquire.

Pointing out just how pervasive heroin is in our society and how, in stereotyping the types of users many conceive as those endangered by drugs, we miss how deeply drugs have gotten into all socio-economic levels.

Thank you also for letting us use parts of your talk in our “Your Choice” video we are distributing to many schools in our area.

Bob McKune, Phelps County Prevention Director

Roger Schroeder, Chief of Police

From the first moment Coach Marshall begins sharing his personal, heartrending story, one is struck by both the anguish and the passion with which he speaks. We’ve all read about the abuse of drugs and the corresponding destruction of lives, and in my 37 year law enforcement career I have witnessed the impact from many different perspectives. No one, however, has touched me like Coach Marshall. He is articulate, forthright, passionate, but, most of all, he’s a father who’s lost a son. I promise you, you will not forget the experience, nor his message.

Chief Roger A. Schroeder
Jefferson City, Missouri Police Department

Sherri Thomas, Principal

Coach Marshall has spoken at out school on 3 occasions. He has spoken to a large assembly and smaller groups. His presentation is spot on with our health curriculum and drug abuse signs. He also ties in themes on how to cope, how to help others engaged in drug use, and taking negative events in life and turning them into a positive one. Coach Marshall was a middle school teacher, a high school teacher/coach and now a college teacher/coach. He can relate his speech to many different age groups. His story is passionate, gut wrenching, and energetic. The kids are intense in their interest level. I believe he has the ability to reach kids to a point where they want to stop this problem. Many of our students and parents continue to talk about what Coach says for several days after he leaves. It opens up dialogue between teachers and students and parents and children, which is good. I have him scheduled every semester and I believe it would be a positive thing for any school to have him come speak.

Sherri Thomas, Lewis & Clark Middle School Principal
Jefferson City, Missouri

Jennifer Burton, Clinic Coordinator

Jim Marshall is a champion. I have had the pleasure of knowing him as my high school teacher and track coach thirty years ago at North Callaway High School. He was a champion then as a true leader and dedicated coach and teacher and has dedicated his life to leadership. Now, he continues to be a champion and leader as he processes the terrible grief I am blessed to only be able to imagine – the loss of his precious child Cody.

When Jim came to speak at William Woods University, it was to a packed house of students in the Library Auditorium. Students were riveted to his presentation which was engaging, sincere, intelligent, informative and filled with the courage of a man who has been through the fire of experiencing the reality of the worst fear most of us parents hold deep in our hearts – the loss of a child. Jim, being the champion he is, refused to let the pain of losing Cody be the end of Cody’s story. Jim, with Cody’s spirit in his heart, is moving for change in the epidemic of drug abuse.

I could say much more, but I will leave you with this: one of the most powerful parts of his message was when a student in the crowd was being a bit less than attentive and another student raised his hand and asked of Jim Marshall if he could say something. With Jim’s permission, the peer stood-up, turned around and confronted the inattentive student. This is how much Jim touched our student population with his story. I would highly recommend bringing Jim Marshall to speak; a champion in the hard-fought journey for change.

Jennifer Burton, Clinic Coordinator
WWU Counseling and Health Services

Interested in having Jim speak at your school?