WILMINGTON – Richard Wonderling — a senior producer for ThinkTV, the Dayton Public Broadcasting Station (PBS) — says the best thing about working for PBS is the opportunity to work on meaningful stories and meet interesting people of various backgrounds.
That environment has allowed him to produce hundreds of important and award-winning documentaries over the past 17 years, and led him about a half-decade ago to the tragic family story of Blanchester farmer Roger Winemiller.
Wonderling’s award-winning documentary about Winemiller and others impacted by the opioid crisis made him the appropriate keynote speaker for the eighth graduation of the You-Turn Recovery (Drug) Docket on Thursday, May 27, at 7 p.m. at the Elevation Church, 107 Eagle-Martin Drive, Blanchester. It is open to the public.
Wonderling was producing a weekly series called “Our Ohio” — kind of a local version of America’s Heartland (a national PBS show) — when the rural opioid problem exploded.
“We didn’t tell difficult stories like that, it just wasn’t what the show was about,” he recalled, “but I thought the problem was important enough to break precedent. After some meetings with management, I got the green light. We devoted the entire 30 minutes to the opioid story.”
When approaching this overly complex issue, Wonderling admitted that he did not know where to start until he read a story in the New York Times about an Ohio farmer who lost two of his three children to the opioid epidemic. His name was Roger Winemiller.
Wonderling called Winemiller, and a week later he was sitting in the Wilmington McDonald’s with him and others concerned with the opioid issue and its negative impact on individuals, families and communities.
“We had a great discussion,” Wonderling said. “Lisa Haynes was there, and I learned about the Blanchester Hope Warriors, a group she helped start that offers support, education and resources to families who are battling addiction.
“I learned about Judge (J.W. “Tim”) Rudduck’s drug court and about local physicians, like Dr. Catherine LaRuffa, who had put stringent protocols in place to shut down the abuse of prescription painkillers.”
Wonderling concluded that in some ways, rural Ohio was at a disadvantage in this battle. “There was a lack of nearby infrastructure designed to help addicts and their families,” he said, “but people here weren’t waiting for the cavalry to ride in and save the day. They were stepping up and looking after their own. And that made for a compelling and hopeful story.”
Faced with overwhelmed and underfunded rural support services, Roger and others began reaching out to addicts and their families one person at a time to save their community, Wonderling said.
The resulting 30-minute documentary, “Twenty Seconds of Courage,” won four 2019 Regional Emmy Awards from the Ohio Valley Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.
“When this epidemic subsides, we can thank the people who stared it in the face and didn’t back down. The people in this film had a choice. They didn’t internalize their pain. They reached out to others. They’re shining a light in dark places,” Wonderling said at the time of the release of the film.
Watch the documentary online at https://video.thinktv.org/video/20-seconds-of-courage-1rmpi8/ .
Wonderling, a native of Columbus and graduate of Ohio University, has won more than 20 regional Emmys and just released a film on the famous World War II airplane, Memphis Belle, which has more than four million views on YouTube.
His two current projects are focused on the restoration of the downtown Dayton Arcade and the consequences of redlining – the historical collaboration between the U.S. government, banks, and realtors to enforce racial segregation.
For more information on the docket, go to www.you-turn-drug-docket.org, follow it on Facebook at You-Turn Recovery Docket, like it on Twitter at You-Turn@UturnDrugDocket, or contact supervision officer Jessica Harrington at 937-382-8686, ext. 1137, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org .