Several community members paid homage to those who’ve been killed or lost someone due to overdose-related causes.
On Friday, HIV North Society celebrated International Overdose Awareness Day in support of those struggling with addiction or loss – and for those celebrating recovery.
Mari-Lee Paluszak is the mother of Todd Chambers who passed away from a fentanyl-related overdose at 29 years old.
She tells Mix News there are resources to get help – if you need it.
“Once they’re addicted, they often can’t get out,” she said. “But there is the help and people make it well known that there is help out there. They have to want it themselves to go get it. And for families who are struggling with someone who’s using – don’t give up on them. Let them know you’re there for them.”
According to the provincial government, as of the end of June, 355 people have been killed by an apparent accidental opioid overdose.
That’s nearly two Albertans dying on average per day.
Holly Meintz is another mother of a victim of an opioid-related overdose.
Her son Christopher Shebib – was killed after ingesting cocaine laced with fentanyl at just 28 years old.
Meintz, who’s hair is a light-purple in honour of the day – also bore a shirt with a purple-heart encircled by a ribbon with her son’s name and date of birth and death on the back – May 1988 to August 2016.
On its front, it reads “We fight for those we LOVE and LOST.”
“It’s important for people to know that they are not alone,” Meintz said.
“Unfortunately, they aren’t alone, there’s too many of us going through this that something needs to be done. Reach out for help. I’ve done the counselling and group counselling and it’s needed. There’s always someone there you can talk to.”
Mayor Don Scott was also on hand to address the crowd, announcing the Saline Creek Bridge would be lit up in purple to honour the lives lost to drug overdoses.
For both mothers, it’s a day that’s about bringing a light onto a dark subject matter – not to be reminded of the way their sons were killed but to create awareness so that others do not ever have to deal with the pain that comes with losing a loved one.
“It helps with the healing,” Meintz said. “Makes me feel better about it. I might cry about it and have trouble speaking about it to the public but if I can help someone, Christopher would like that. He wouldn’t want me to be at home – sad and crying. He’d want me out and about.”
In Paluszak’s mind, bringing awareness is the best way to keep her sons’ memory alive.
“If I can save one person’s life, then I’ve done something.”
@DonaldKScott speaks today at @HIVNorthYMM #InternationalOverdoseAwarenessDay in support of those struggling w. addiction, loss and in celebrating those recovering #rmwb #ymm pic.twitter.com/wrFEY5gkjw
— MIX 103.7 News (@Mix1037FMNews) August 31, 2018