By Dillon Thomas

WELLINGTON, Colo. (CBS4) – A former standout athlete from Thunder Ridge High School has a second lease on life thanks to a harvest festival in Northern Colorado. Kaelib Brooks-Rodriguez is part of the Denver Rescue Mission’s New Life program. Participants live on a farm near the Wyoming border in an effort to overcome addiction.

Participants of the Denver Rescue Mission's New Life program live on a farm near the Wyoming border.

Participants of the Denver Rescue Mission’s New Life program live on a farm near the Wyoming border. (credit: CBS)

In order to fund the program, the participants work the annual “Harvest Farm” on their property. With a ticket, the community is welcome to go on hay rides, test the corn maze, shoot corn out of cannons and more. Participants not only work the event, but also open up about their issues with those who attend.

“(I lived through) years of use and abuse of drugs and alcohol,” Brooks-Rodriguez said. “I was also addicted to firearms, violence (and) pornography. There was a litany of things. It wasn’t just substance. Substance was just a symptom of what I was really addicted to.”

At 6’9”, Brooks-Rodriguez earned his way on to a Division I basketball team. Basketball was his passion and life. However, that love for the sport eventually guided him toward his downfall.

“A lot of athletes I hung out with, they liked to party drink and do drugs,” Brooks-Rodriguez said.

After recognizing his own personal addictions, and facing criminal charges, he joined the New Life program.

“The last 13 months have been completely and totally growth-oriented,” Brooks-Rodriguez said. “It was a real opportunity for me to see what real joy, love and happiness was.”

Brooks-Rodriguez said he truly enjoys interacting with those who come to the farm, and opening up about his past mistakes and newfound faith.

“It’s definitely been a platform to share with others my experience, but to help change people’s lives. If it can share my story and help one or two people, that would be enough for me,” Brooks-Rodriguez said. “There is hope, there is always hope for those of us who feel lost. For the longest time basketball defined me. I don’t have to just be a basketball player or an addict anymore, I have so much more to offer the world.”

The Harvest Farm wraps up Sunday, October 27th. For more information, visit harvestfarm.org.

Dillon Thomas

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