Dan Cantine, 12-24 Club

Dan Cantine sits on the stairs at the 12-24 Club. Cantine numbered the stairs after a fellow board member mentioned that there were exactly 24.

Josh Galemore, Star-Tribune

Dan Cantine deserves the thanks of our community.

In 1993, he helped found the 12-24 Club, a recovery group that has transformed countless lives. The organization gives people with substance abuse problems an avenue to connect with the resources they need to reclaim their lives.

Over the years, there’s no way to tally all the differences Cantine and the nonprofit made, but each day, more than 200 people visit the Casper club, looking for support and camaraderie. The club is a critical hub in the city, transforming lives regularly. It holds 40 12-step meetings per week and offers many other opportunities for people to come together and take the action they need to heal.

Many of its beneficiaries aren’t shy about sharing their stories:

A single mother working two jobs and taking classes came to the club for help years ago. These days, she has graduated at the top of her class from the South Dakota School of Mines and has seen much of the world while working for a company based in Oklahoma.

A man who had performed at the Casper Events Center in the past came to Cantine seeking a ride to a 12-step meeting. The singer said that although he’d been to the city before, he’d never noticed the mountain because he was under the influence.

And there are many, many more people who have had similarly transformative experiences.

That is Cantine’s legacy. And it’s one that he and his community should reflect on with pride as he prepares to retire this fall.

He has served as the club’s director twice. He’s served as a vocal advocate for its services in Casper. And through it all, he has never stopped giving his time. And even after this – his third attempt to retire – he plans to stay on as a volunteer, looking to help everyone he can.

His work has given him an up-close view of the drug problems in the city and the country. He worries these days about meth, opioids and alcohol and the influences they might have on people’s lives. But his success also underlines the importance of treatment – of choosing to see addiction as a disease and reaching out to help people suffering from it.

Dealing with addiction has its unavoidable dark and difficult moments. Cantine has seen more than his share of struggle, pain and failure. But he stays focused on making a difference.

“There’s a lot of tragedy that you see,” he told the Star-Tribune. “But then you see those who get it.”

Most of those who get it are forever grateful to Cantine. And as he moves on to the next phase of his life, our community should be, too.

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