Rally will raise awareness of heroin addiction

SALEM – A Salem mother dealing with her daughter’s heroin addiction is now trying to bring more awareness to the community, asking residents to attend a rally from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday at Waterworth Memorial Park.

“I want everyone there. We need to reach parents and children – they need the information,” Brenda Hamilton said.

Hamilton serves as administrator for Ohio C.A.N. Change Addiction Now, a non-profit group trying to shine a light on the problem of drug addiction and educate families on the help that’s out there for themselves and their drug-addicted child or family member.

She and Cindy Koumoutzis, who is also the parent of a drug addict and serves as state director for Ohio C.A.N., have been working together to organize what they are calling the Steps of Hope Walk a Mile in MY Shoes Rally.

The free event kicks off at Pavilion #8 off of Superior Avenue at 1 p.m. with a walk along the nature trail area. On the way back to the pavilion, plans call for people to gather near a bridge where an estimated 60 pairs of shoes representing people lost to drugs will be located. People are asked to bring shoes to represent their love ones lost or struggling with addiction.

Marilyn Burns, a mental health counselor from Boardman who lost her 23-year-old son Christopher to drugs, will speak near the shoes. She’s the author of “Lost No More” and will have books for sale and sign them.

Beginning at 2 p.m., Salem Mayor John Berlin will read a proclamation, followed by a series of speakers expected to include Fifth District state Rep. Nick Barborak, Salem Police Sgt. John Scheets of the Columbiana County Drug Task Force, Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent Erik Kochanowski, Columbiana County Department of Job and Family Services Director Eileen Dray-Bardon, Salem resident Nathan Walker, a representative of the Columbiana County Coroner’s Office, recovering addicts Anthony and Megan Day of 9th Recovery and Sober Living, Aaron Marks for Voice of Hope and Recovery, and Jerimiah Klass and Tom Fritz for Celebrate Recovery.

Hamilton said several organizations will have information available at tables, including the Salem Police Department, Sebring Police Department, Quest Recovery Services Project DAWN, Brenda Foor of A.D.A.P.T. Columbiana County, Deanna Tackett of C.A.R.E. , Celebrate Recovery and the Family Recovery Center.

Children will be asked to draw an anti-drug poster during a poster contest to be judged by McGruff the crime dog.

The event will end with a balloon launch commemorating those lost to addiction and those living with substance abuse disorder, using red, purple and white balloons. Hamilton explained that red represents addiction, purple represents recovery and white represents angels lost to death.

Refreshments will be available for purchase, with all funds raised going to the organization for more rallies. DJ Jimmie Dubose will play music.

“Come and educate yourself,” Hamilton said.

She said the event couldn’t be put on without teamwork. She urged people to visit the Ohio C.A.N. Facebook link at www.facebook.com/groups/OhioCAN/ where they can find a lot of information.

She had dealt with drug addiction with her son, but never thought she would deal with addiction with her daughter, too. In offering advice for others, she said parents need to be aware and when their child starts changing, start asking questions and tear apart their room if necessary.

She didn’t know where to go for help and said there needs to be more awareness of what’s out there. She ended up traveling to Cleveland for a forum called Heroin in the Suburbs to get information. She also became part of The Addict’s Mom and now Ohio C.A.N., which is an affiliate of United We C.A.N. Change Addiction Now.

“A family as a whole needs help, not just your child who has a substance abuse addiction,” she said.

Hamilton said it’s a huge problem and it’s okay for families to come forward. Turning a blind eye doesn’t help – the problem will only get bigger. As a mother, she said it was never an option to turn her back on her children.

“We need to come together as a community,” she said.