Community marches for 'hope not heroin' in all-day event

Zoe Greszler • Updated Jul 18, 2017 at 3:19 PM

Dear America, fight for recovery!

If you were downtown Satuday afternoon you probably heard those words called out from a megaphone and 172 other voices that marched from the Norwalk Reflector to Suhr Park.

About 200 people gathered at the park to support “Hope not Heroin” march and event which featured dozens of life experiences of those who overcame their addiction and encouraged others to do the same. The event organized by Jamie Mullins and Richie Webber had live music playing throughout the time and several organizations offering substance abuse help were set up. 

To top things off, five scholarships for addiction help were offered to individuals in need of overcoming the disease.

Mayor Rob Duncan who attended and prayed over the group prior to the march, said he hoped the event helped to raise more awareness.

“People simply need to be aware of the issue and I think lately you’ve been seeing more of that happen in the community,” he said. “There are a lot of different groups involved and that’s the thing — it takes everybody. Not only do you have the drug addicts, but you have the parents and families that are suffering because they feel like they’ve already lost their kid or they feel like they’re in a tough place.”

That was the case for a Bellevue family.

Tough love, ‘health boundaries’

Barry and Dawn Bova lost their son to heroin on Oct. 21 after he had been sober for at least a year.

“Our son Brad was 23-years-old when he overdosed on heroin and fentanyl down in Florida,” Barry said. “He was doing very well in a halfway house for a year. He had some long-term recovery he needed, but he really wanted to be sober. ... He had a bad day and used one last time. He was 300-pounds when he died so he hadn’t been using in a long time. One time — he had one bad day and I guess he thought one last time and it was was the last time.”

He said the loss was especially difficult for his wife, the Sandusky County coordinator for OhioCan, who talked with Brad “almost every day.” 

“As you know it affects everybody — family, friends, everybody,” Dawn said.

“Unfortunately we have been hardest hit because we lost our son Brad,” Dawn said, choking up at the mention of her late son. “I had learned to love Brad exactly where he was, no matter what, but I also had to learn how to put up healthy boundaries, which was very difficult, especially when I had to kick him out.”

She was able to keep some contact with him and eventually Brad “saw that there was a better life.” Bova said her son lived “that better life” for about a year.

“For reasons we don’t know, that ended,” she said. “This disease is sneaky, deceiving and cunning.”

Boy, 5: Heroin divided my family

Marcia Reed, of Sandusky and her 5-year-old grandson Derek marched as they held up signs, describing how drugs had ruined their family.   

“His father is an addict and his family has been separated due to heroin use,” Reed explained. “He (Derek) lives with me, his other brother lives with his other grandmother and his parents are separated. He’s lost his mother, his father, his brother and his home all in less than a year.”

When asked what she thought contributed to tearing the family apart, Reed said “it was absolutely drugs.”

“(My son) lost his job, lost his car, lost his home, lost his wife, lost his children — it’s all drug related,” she said.

Derek said he is happy living with his grandmother now, but said he misses his family, especially his dad.

“Normally he says he misses his brother the most,” Reed said. “But he does miss his dad a lot. ... He told his hairdresser out of the blue the other day, ‘My dad always lies to me. He says he’s coming over and he doesn’t show up.’”

Reed said her son initially agreed to seek treatment when life started to spiral out of control. He started on Suboxone, but soon started to sell that “to get back on heroin” and has been to jail twice. 

“He just keeps picking the girl and his drugs every time,” she said.

Recovery center coming to Norwalk?

Reed said it’s been painful, but she plans to use her story to help as many as possible.

“It’s affecting everyone. I’ll stand up wherever I can and (speak out) about it

“Try to get help,” she said as words of advice to others experiencing a similar situation with their children. “That’s all you can do. But I had my son ready to go. He went up to the house. ... They had no room for him. That’s the problem, you can’t find help for these kids, but it takes money and they don’t have room or funding. We need places locally. We need something soon.”

Duncan and Webber said they hope that will soon be a reality.

“A lot of times addicts would come and we would have nowhere to send them,” Duncan said, adding he was thankful for the treatment scholarships handed out at the event.

“We even have hopes that someday we’re going to a have a peer center here and a recovery center so people can come into a non-threatening environment with people who have already overcome the issue and offer them support and encouragement. We feel like there does need to be a recovery center here and that’s part of it is just raising more awareness (like with Hope not Heroin).”

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