Vigil serves as awareness program for drug-related deaths

Rachel Duthie

Education and activism served as the major themes at the International Overdose Awareness Day Candlelight Vigil at Stow City Hall, an event dedicated to people of drug-related deaths.

The vigil was held by TRUTH (Together Rise Up 2 Terminate Heroin), a local heroin-awareness group founded by Rob and Juli Stone in memory of their son Dylan, a former Kent State student whose story of addiction was featured in The Kent Stater this past spring.

“My goal of this was to bring awareness. These aren’t bad guys lurking in dark alleyways that are dying; they are good people, sons and daughters,” Juli Stone said. “We need to do this now, so younger people see and don’t do the same things when they’re older.”

The organization had friends, family and significant others speak of the deceased, each one stressing the need to erase the stigma and promote education about addiction.

Resources for drug counseling, Narcotics Anonymous and educational handouts lined the vigil. Recovering addicts also came to provide support to those who may be suffering.

“Everyone sees the staggering statistics but don’t know the pain associated with losing a son or a daughter from a disease. And it’s a disease,” said Susan Carlyon, whose son recently overdosed. “No one wants to be addicted to heroin. We have to be compassionate, not judgmental.”

According to a Ohio Department of Health study, the number of unintentional drug overdoses in Ohio increased from 2014 to 2015, with mostly all cases involving opiates.

Heroin is a highly-addictive opiate that can be smoked, snorted or injected. Local and state officials said that the drug is dangerous due to its ability to affect anyone, regardless of social and economic class.

“It’s a problem that is very well coming into Stow,” Carlyon said.

Morgan Kreptowski, a child development major at The University of Akron whose boyfriend of five years died from heroin, hopes the event will provide hope for the growing problem.

“When I was with him when he was sober, it was amazing,” she said. “He was a good guy. People have the strength to get better; there just needs to be faith.”

TRUTH hopes to have more awareness events about drug addiction in the future, a cause the group promises to stand behind until it’s solved for good.

“I will never stop fighting,” said Rob Stone in his opening speech. “We will reverse the stigma. We will educate and we will change.”