Tri-County remembers those lost to drug addiction at 2016 Memory Walk
Drug overdose has touched the lives of many residents in the Southern Maryland region. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 129 Americans die each day from drug overdose and more than half are from prescription drugs alone. For this reason, many loved ones, parents, children, brothers, sisters and friends have been lost to the disease of drug addiction.
On May 14, Serenity Farm in Benedict invited residents in the tri-county region to the second annual Tri-County Memory Walk for friends and families to mourn those that they have lost to drug addiction.
Bernie Fowler Jr., founder of Farming 4 Hunger in partnership with Serenity Farm, said the idea for the memory walk came from Lori Hony and her boss Henry Trentman, who are both a part of the homeless shelter nonprofit organization Project Echo. Fowler suggested that they do the memory walk at Serenity Farm since it is centrally located between each of the three counties and a peaceful, symbolic place to come to.
“We need people to understand that although these lost loved ones struggled with drug addiction, they need to be honored because they are still human,” said Hony, house manager at Project Echo in Prince Frederick. “We have hope and awareness here because we hope that more people enter into recovery and don’t end up on the wall. It overwhelms me because I collect the photos and I know every one of those people’s names. But I’m grateful that I had the idea and was able to bring it to life.”
“This is a cause that is near and dear to me because Dave Robinson, co-owner of Serenity Farm, lost his daughter due to a drug overdose and my own daughter, Lauren Fowler, was a drug addict for seven years,” Fowler said. “I wanted to create a place that brings hope and creates awareness but is also a place for the prevention
side as well.”
The memory walk began at 9 a.m. when more than 300 families who have lost a loved one came early for refreshments, met others who have experienced similar losses and discovered resources available for addicts, alcoholics and their families. Fowler had all of the guests participate in planting seeds of hope for those who still struggle with addiction. Family and friends then walked a half-mile path while viewing photos of 80 loved ones lost to drug addiction.
“Having the tri-county region here, it shows an awareness that its not an isolated problem. It is a major problem and epidemic in Southern Maryland and in the state of Maryland,” Fowler said.
During the walk’s opening ceremony, Ginger Rosela shared her experience of strength and hope after her son, Jacob Paddy, died from a drug overdose several years ago.
“My son started with prescription drugs after a bike accident. He had a couple of clean years but then he had another accident. When he told his doctor that he was in recovery, the doctor said it’s for pain so he would be fine. Well the drugs ran out, heroin was cheap and he died July 19, 2013,” Rosela said.
Rosela said she is still a broken-hearted mom but she uses the memory walk as a time to continue her healing process and now stands as an advocate for a drug-free community.
According to the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, 75 percent of heroin users used prescription opioids before heroin.
“All of the grieving families here have come together to learn how to heal and figure out that even though it’s hard, they have to go on. I’m trying to help other parents prevent the hell that all of these families live now. No shame, no blame,” Rosela said. “I’m not proud that’s how Jake died but its a true fact and drug addiction is a disease.”
Susan Wilson, St. Mary’s County resident and co-founder of Parents Affected By Addiction, said she helps parents like Rosela who think they are the only parents with children who struggle with drug addiction.
“There has been more attention brought to drug addiction now because there have been so many deaths,” Wilson said. “Death by opioid and heroin overdoses have now surpassed death rates by car accidents in the United States. Our goal is to help other parents understand that the opiate heroin addiction is affecting other parents as well. We have seen that 8 out of the 10 times, a family finds out that their loved one is addicted to opiates so they feel embarrassed and think that they are the only ones.”
Parents Affected By Addiction is one of the organizations that were at the second annual Tri-County Memory Walk in order to help parents develop a support system and resources for their loved ones who are currently struggling with drug addiction. The group wants to remove stereotypical illusions of what a parent who has a son or daughter struggling with drug addiction looks like.
Fowler said the residents who have experienced loss also come out as a community to support those who are currently in recovery themselves. Frankie Sauder, a Benedict resident currently recovering from drug addiction, has been clean for 13 months and believes that the walk helps people realize that this disease is progressing.
“From personal experience I know the disease is a family problem,” Sauder said. “My 16-yearold daughter, Samantha Sauder, is in recovery as well. She’s been clean for 13 months and she’s probably one of the youngest addicts in the tri-county area. She saw me get high and she got high. Then she saw me get clean, so she got clean.”
Sauder felt the event brings out even more emotions because he has lost a lot of good friends over the last few years to drug addiction.
“It’s important for us to share our stories because because getting clean again got me my life back,” he said.
Monique Pierre, a Calvert County resident, gets a hug during the second annual Tri-County Memory Walk on Saturday as she remembered her fiancee, Douglas Beazley, who died from a drug overdose on June 17, 2015.
Members of the Robinson family, Dave Robinson, Denise Robinson and Austin Robinson, owners of Serenity Farm in Benedict, remembered their daughter Ashlee Robinson, who died due to a drug overdose, during the second annual Tri-County Memory Walk. At Serenity Farm there is a memorial garden called “Ashlee’s Garden” dedicated to Dave Robinson’s daughter.
Ginger Rosela, a Calvert County resident, shared her experience of strength and hope during the second annual Tri-County Memory Walk’s opening ceremony on Saturday, and told the audience about her son, Jacob Paddy, and his struggle with drug addiction.