SafeLaunch Co-Founder Shares His Flight Skills
A Passion for Service
Ron Cuff has spent his adult life encouraging young people to excel. First as a Naval Officer and Navy Pilot, he led the younger men under his command(s) by example. Later, as a Naval Reserve officer he assumed leadership roles in civilian life with a deep concern for the health of young people. He assumed numerous leadership positions in established community organizations, and founded three community-based non-profits that were designed to give a hand up to people who were down. He served as board president of five community organizations. As a young adult and Navy reserve officer, he ran three marathons to set an example for young people. He recruited the U.S. Navy Blue Angels flight demonstration team to speak to five separate junior high schools about the importance of not succumbing to the temptations of addictive substances. Finally, as Commanding Officer of his Naval Reserve unit, he assumed a national role as Deputy Commander of the Navy and Marine Corps' "Campaign Drug Free”.
The Realization of an Epidemic
Several years later, he became aware that despite all of the efforts in which he and many others participated in to keep young people away from a life of addiction, the epidemic of addiction was growing. Realizing that the term “drug-free," while well intentioned, a drug-free world would, in fact, be counter-productive to health. That was the spark of a crucial awareness. For the health of our communities, our nation, and our world, he realized that we must take an offensive strategy toward addiction. The offensive strategy is to prevent addiction from rooting in the minds of young students, where it almost always starts. He realized that nearly all of the community organizations' missions he had been serving, and all of the social needs he had been attempting to support had at their foundation a common denominator: addiction. Crime, homelessness, child abuse, divorce, violence, and poor educational outcomes were all correlated with substance abuse and a growing rate of addiction.
In 2010, along with Janet Rowse and Mari Mender, he founded SafeLaunch. The name SafeLaunch has its genesis in Naval Aviation. Navy pilots are safely launched from aircraft carriers using one of three steam catapults. During this initial phase of flight, Navy pilots rely 100% on others for their safety. An entire crew of people must get everything right including measuring the velocity of the wind, the amount of steam pressure, and the weight of the aircraft. If anyone fails, disaster ensues.
Ron believes that adults have the same responsibility for youth when it comes to preventing addiction, and launching them safely into adulthood. Like Navy pilots, young students rely on hundreds of others to keep them safe during this early phase of their "flight". Ron is determined to make sure that students receive the education and protection they need to live a life free of the disease of addiction, a disease that now grips 23 million Americans, and killed more than 90,000 in 2020 by overdose, alone.
As a military man, Commander Cuff is calling for a change in strategy. To beat addiction, he believes we need to spend most of our resources preventing it...not chasing it.