Sounding Out Against Heroin
People in the community came together April 26 at Victor Talotta Memorial Park, Cementon, for a benefit to raise aid and awareness of heroin use and abuse.
Two Lehigh Valley families united and formed a benefit called Sounding Out Against Heroin.
"There is a heroin crisis in our community and it is growing at an alarming rate among our youth," David Arey said. "It is a horrific drug. It's out there and it's readily available to our children.
"It has been steadily and rapidly expanding from the usual centers of use and distribution for over a decade. It is no longer just an inner-city problem or one that affects a certain population or demographic."
David and Ann Arey lost their 18-year-old son, Shane, to a heroin overdose Jan. 22, 2015, after he battled an addiction for several years.
"January 22 he overdosed on heroin; this was his angel birth," said Ann. "The days that followed did not seem real. The pain was unbearable, but reality was there and so were things I had to take care of, like funeral, burial, tombstone.
"There was life insurance, but not enough for everything. I came to find out another young man from Whitehall had passed away on Jan. 19, 2015. Three had passed in less that two weeks. It's a horrible epidemic," Ann continued.
"I remember sitting with Shane on Jan. 11 when the news was in the paper about Christopher Loyko passing, also of a heroin overdose. Shane had a moment of clarity and realized it could have been him. By Thursday, Jan. 22, he overdosed on heroin."
"When my lifelong friend Dave Arey informed me that his son had passed as a result of a heroin overdose, my heart was broken in a million pieces as I felt helpless for him and our community," said Scott Marshall. "The heroin issue has been increasing at an alarming rate in our area, and in recent years, I've run into multiple families that it's affecting."
The Areys, Allison Loyko, Sheri Bayne, Marshall and Brandi Haley decided that something must be done. They began organizing the benefit.
"Donations will be made to two organizations that our sons went to for treatment, Step by Step Inc. and RAFT Treatment Center," said David. "After that, the proceeds will be divided evenly between the two families that organized the benefit to help the families with the unexpected cost of laying our sons to rest."
Sounding Out Against Heroin turned out to be a huge success. The community worked together to show their support. Entertainment included Kevin with Crazy Ks Entertainment, Scott Marshall and Marshall's Highway, James Surpa blues band, Tim Harakal and Social Call. Members of The Cherry Bombs and Rick Statkus donated their time and played music throughout the day.
Speakers included Joan Haluch, clinical director, RAFT Treatment Center; John Mooney, of Step by Step Inc; Mary Ellen Jackson, executive director, Center For Humanistic Change; Whitehall Township Mayor Edward D. Hozza Jr., members of Communities That Care and Nick Labar, of Waters Edge Recovery.
"A special thank you to the hosts of Sounding Out Against Heroin to organize this much-needed event so soon after losing a loved one. Our daughter, Kimberly O'Rourke, is now gone two-and-a-half years from this horrific drug," Robert and Mary O'Rourke said.
"She sold her car, anything worth value and hurt anyone who would stand in her way," Mary O'Rourke said. "Yet there was always that side of her that had a heart of gold. I never shied away from talking about her addiction, even when she was alive. Everyone in my circle knew, and that provided so much support for us and her. Although she took her own life, the heroin led her to a point of no return. When we cleaned out her apartment, we came up with four boxes of her belongings; that's it. It took everything and then her life."
Communities That Care is a framework for assessing, analyzing, interpreting and addressing the risk and protective factors within communities. Risk factors include conditions in a child's life that increase the chances that he or she might become involved in dangerous behaviors such as drug or alcohol use, violence or dropping out of school.
Protective factors are those conditions that buffer a young person from negative forces.
Communities That Care strives to teach young people about the dangers of substance abuse, supporting parents in their efforts to keep their children safe from drugs and alcohol, building a community that provides the youth opportunities for success, along with reducing food insecurity, such as hunger, and increasing career awareness.
According to drug-effects.us.com, heroin is an illegal, highly addictive drug. It is both the most abused and the most rapidly acting of the opiates.
Recent studies suggest a shift from injecting heroin to snorting or smoking because of increased purity and the misconception that these forms of use will not lead to addiction and/or death. Heroin is a highly addictive drug, and its use is a serious problem in the United States.
"I think it was brave of those families to arrange the festival, particularly given how raw their emotions must have been," speaker Tina Mazza said. "I lost my favorite person in the world, my 18-year-old-son James, from a heroin overdose."
Loyko also lost her 22-year-old son from a heroin overdose Jan. 11.
"My sons Matthew and Adam, their cousin Nikki and a close family friend started a Facebook page called Stand Up Against Heroin, Lehigh Valley," she said.
"We are coming together as a community through the Communities That Care program to prevent situations like those that happened to these families from happening again," Hozza said. "As a community, we are working to keep kids safe from the lure of drugs and alcohol, educate parents about their role, help families be safe, provide stable places for our youth to grow and create a vibrant community where our kids have opportunities to be successful. Parents, grandparents and guardians need to ask serious questions about the friends their children may be hanging out with, even if they've known those friends all their lives."