On August 30th, while thousands were being entertained at the Last Fling, another 200 spent the evening attending the Overdose Awareness Day at the Grand Pavilion.  This was the first time this international event, which was hosted by the Path to Recovery Foundation (PATH), was observed here in Naperville.

Deb Lewin, the Executive Director of PATH, had worked relentlessly with her team, Jan Lynch, Roberta Kalish, Lauren McLaughlin and Sheree Stillwell on the preparations for the event and was extremely happy with the results.  Deb’s response to the evening was expressed in her statement: “I wish I could find the words to express how I feel right now. A night, filled with love, laughter and tears. I am beyond grateful to ever person that came out tonight and honored and remembered all the beautiful people we have lost. Thank you to our speakers that showed courage and integrity as they shared their heartache, to those that shared hope and those that shared options. I am beyond blessed.”

Here’s another quoted from Deb:

“Thank you to everyone that supported us yesterday. The event would not have been a success with out you. A special thanks to our speakers, Don and Roberta Kalish, Rena Petkus, Lyndsay Hartman, Jamie Horner, Brad and Jessica Gerke, Lauren McLaughlin and Pastor Cindy. Thank you to the Naperville Park District for your support and finding our lost tables. DuPage County Health Department, thank you for training our guests in Narcan and making sure each person was able to bring one home. Thank you to all the treatment centers, sober living and support groups that spent the evening with us, sharing resources with the community. Thank you to my Path Team for all of hard work in helping my vision come to life. I am grateful to be a part of such an amazing group people.”

Don Kalish, the President of PATH, stated that “our purpose in sponsoring Overdose Awareness Day here in Naperville was not only to pause for a few hours and remember our loved ones who lost their battles with substance abuse but to also discuss some of the strategies which are being used to help prevent addiction and support those struggling with it.”

Here is a list of the treatment centers, foundations and groups who attended and provided information about their many services:

Path to Recovery Foundation, Families United Overcoming Addiction Support Group, Point to Point, Rosecrance, Harmony Recovery, Solid Ground, Northern Illinois Recovery Center, Families Anonymous, Banyan, Chicago Hope Dealer, Keys to Freedom, Existential, Gone too Soon, Illinois Helpline, Allison Cares Foundation, Joyful Balance Acupuncture, Naperville Family Support Group, DuPage County Health Department, Stairway to Freedom, Joliet Clinic, Never Alone Recovery, Naperville Police Department – Connect for Life Program, Hope For Healing Foundation, Linden Oaks, Transformations Treatment Center and Never Alone Recovery. 

Included among the speakers were: 

·        Roberta and Don Kalish who shared the story of their son, Randy who died from a fentanyl overdose in 2016. 
·        Rena Petkus who spoke about her son, Benji, and the role of AIDS in his overdose death in 2018. 
·        Lyndsay Hartman, from Point to Point who discussed harm reduction and her passion for helping keep addicts alive until they’re ready to commit to a life of sobriety. 
·        Jamie Horner from the Naperville Police Department spoke about the department’s Connect for Life program. 
·        And then finally Brad and Jessica Gerke and Lauren McLaughlin spoke about their journeys from addiction to sobriety showing that there is hope in recovery. 

Deb had Cindy Marino from Grace Methodist Church say a prayer during the candlelight vigil.  And as the evening came to end, words which had been said several times during the event came to mind. As many of the attendees had been on heartbreaking journeys, they met some of the most incredible and amazing people along the way. People whose lives were devastated been turned upside down in grief but were still able to reach out their hands to see who and how they could help others. 

Here are a couple of statistics from the Illinois Opioid Dashboard.  There were 2,889 reported heroin and opioid related deaths in 2017 and 2,845 in 2018.  And in 2019 through August, there have been 6,978 reported emergency room visits related to overdoses.