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‘Our kids are dying’

Andy Ouriel • Oct 1, 2013 at 8:37 PM

Each tiny flame flickering Monday night in Victory Park symbolized a different significance for about 100 people attending a candlelight vigil.

For Bryan Hunkley, his light represented survival.

See more photos of the vigil HERE

Kathy Loos’ candle, meanwhile, embodied recovery, as her two sons are still battling their personal demons. And Melva Sherwood’s flame burned brightly for her son, Andrew Weaver, who died a year ago from a heroin overdose.

Want help?

Let’s Get Real, a new information and referral community center, helps families and loved ones afflicted with addiction in their journey to recover. 

Contact them by:

• Calling 440-963-0147

• Visiting 5541 Liberty Ave. in Vermilion

Dubbed Lights of Hope, the event’s organizers wanted local residents to know about how rampant drug addiction issues are in small communities such as Vermillion.

Organizers asked people light three candles: one each for someone who died, is recovering and living with an addiction.

Representatives from various organizations also attended to provide referrals to help people conquer their problems.

“Our kids are dying,” said Sherwood, the event’s main organizer. “We need to help people that are addicts so they can recover. They’re not criminals. They’re not the pits of our society. They are human beings, and they need to be treated as such.”    Sherwood is planning to implant a multi-tiered grassroots effort to combat addiction isuses.

She wants to open a community center, where family members of addicts can meet up and receive help or vent about someone they love who’s suffering from an addiction.

Sherwood is also planning to campaign to politicians and march sometime soon in Washington, D.C. She wants lawmakers to redirect resources specifically for helping addicts recover.

“They can go over to Syria and spend money there but ignore the issues that are going on at home?” Sherwood said. “To me, there is a terrorist attack here, and it’s a sneaky one. Drugs are coming from Mexico and Afghanistan, and we need to have more ways to stop it.”

SOLACE — a nonprofit organization standing for Surviving Our Loss And Communities Everyday — formed 18 months ago not to stop drug addiction but to help those impacted by it cope.

Twice a month, about 15 group members meet to provide support and listen to one another’s struggles in knowing — and loving — someone battling an addition.

“If we are keeping it quiet and a secret, then you could end up being affected by it without realizing it,” Loos said. “We do a lot of selfcare for ourselves. We have yoga and relaxation exercise. We’re in stressful situations.”

Hunkley, too, understands stress.

So much so that he almost killed himself. “I was addicted to alcohol, heroin, crack, cocaine, meth, you name it,” Hunkley said. “I was just normal as any kid, and I never though it would be destructive. But a pill here and a joint there, it just continued to escalate, and the next thing I know I was a heroin addict.”

Hunkley was fortunate. He became sober after entering a 12-step program.

Some of his friends weren’t. At least one died from a drug overdose.

His advice for anyone battling a disease: get help — and do so immediately.

“If you are a using addict, you need to talk to someone who is a recovering addict,” said Hunkley, who’s been six years sober and is now employed as a union sheet metal worker in Cleveland. “The rehab will only dry you out for a bit. You need to get involved in a program.”

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