MIDLOTHIAN — REACH Council celebrated 20 years of drug prevention services to the community of Midlothian and beyond with a dinner and benefit Tuesday night.

The nonprofit organization was founded in 1988 by a group of concerned citizens in response to the murder of a young undercover police officer.

Special guest speaker for the evening was award-winning journalist and author Carlton Stowers, who wrote the fact crime book “Innocence Lost” about the 1987 murder of officer George Raffield by Midlothian youth.

“I have great admiration for what REACH has done,” Stowers said in opening.

“When I began … I had no real idea of where it would lead,” he said of writing the story about the Midlothian tragedy and “how it affected the community.”

“I met a lot of remarkable people – people whose lives were affected, some to this day,” he said of those he came to know while researching for the book.

Stowers said that he learned that a crime was like a rock thrown in a pool and the ripples that are created.

“(The crime) took in more and more people, affected more lives,” he said, saying “as a writer, that’s what struck me.”

Stowers said, too, that the book “seemed to have struck a nerve,” pointing out that after 20 years it’s still in print and has been published in Japanese and German.

“The most remarkable thing that happened was when an elementary teacher asked me to do a children’s book,” Stowers said, explaining that, at that suggestion, he wrote, “A Hero Named George” for third and fourth graders.

The children’s book has been used in drug programs and on Red Ribbon Week. “It’s been a very rewarding experience,” he said, reporting numerous elementary school assemblies for which he’s been a speaker.

“The one criticism I’ve had for the book was when one teacher said, ‘I wish you’d written this book for a younger audience,’” he said, explaining that many educators recognize a need for drug education for even younger children than those in third grade.

Following the guest speaker, a media presentation depicting REACH’s 20-year history and numerous accomplishments was shown and REACH executive director Janice Carey addressed the group.

Carey reported that 10,000 youth, children and adults per year receive services from REACH Council.

Master or ceremonies for the evening was MISD board member and long-time friend of REACH Council, Duke Burge. An invocation was lead by Dr. Rick Davis, former pastor of First Baptist of Midlothian, who traveled from Brownwood, Texas, to participate in the celebration.

Attendees enjoyed a catered dinner by Johnny Carino’s of Waxahachie and music provided by Midlothian High School band students, as well as a special performance by former REACH staff member Tom Walker.

E-mail Jennifer at jennifer.howell@wninews.com