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GetSmart About Drugs - A DEA Resource for Parents

News Release [printer friendly page]
April 24, 2006

Len Bias’ Mother Will Join Other Parents In a Candlelight Vigil

APR 24 ----(Washington, D.C): Dr. Lonise Bias will join other parents in sharing her story, twenty years after the cocaine-related death of her son, Len, at the first annual national vigil remembering those lost to drugs.

Len Bias, a Maryland basketball player, died in 1986 just two days after being the second overall selection in the NBA draft.

In a presentation focusing on “Life After Death…Hope is Not Extinct,” Dr. Bias will present this message: People are living in denial and "it's time to wake up."

Parents, siblings and friends of young people who lost their lives will gather at DEA Headquarters in Arlington, Virginia on the evening of June 8, 2006 to heed that wake up call.

The vigil is being planned by eight families who lost a young person to drugs, and is being supported by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America, the Partnership for a Drug Free America, National Families in Action and the Drug-Free Kids organization. DEA Administrator Karen Tandy agreed to host the vigil after she was approached by Ms. Katz who is serving as honorary chairman of the vigil.

“Every 20 minutes, drugs take another life in this country. Every 20 minutes, the dreams, promise, and talent of another American is snuffed out—leaving families and friends to suffer the darkness of grief,” said DEA Administrator Karen Tandy. "In honor of those lost and in support of those left behind, DEA illuminates the harsh reality of drugs and their tragic consequences. This vigil gives hope for an America without drugs.”

The event will begin at 6:30 p.m. and will include remarks from Dr. Lonise Bias, parents and siblings, Administrator Tandy, NIDA Director Nora Volkow and Deputy Drug Czar Mary Ann Solberg. A candlelight vigil will follow, during which the photographs of those who lost their lives to drugs will be displayed.

“Every life, especially a young life, extinguished or derailed by substance abuse, is a tragic loss of promise and potential that we as individuals, community members, and a society cannot afford,” said Dr. Nora D. Volkow, Director, National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institutes of Health. “We must therefore strengthen efforts to educate our families and communities about the lessons we’ve learned from drug abuse prevention and treatment research—including the special dangers faced by adolescents. The Vigil for Lost Promise will help call attention to this need and stem the tide of suffering and loss that substance abuse extends to us all.”

The eight families touched by the loss of a child or sibling to drugs came together to plan the vigil with the goal of putting a human face on the tragedy caused by drug abuse. In “An Open Letter to Families Everywhere” the families write “We belong to a club that none of us ever wanted to join. We are the parents and siblings of young people who died too soon because of drugs. Their promise was extinguished long before it could be shared with the world. We are ordinary people who are your neighbors, your co-workers and members of your house of worship. We love our children and tried to be the best parents we could be. But drugs took them from us. Some days the grief is still unbearable.”

In addition to Ginger Katz (Connecticut), the letter is authored by Francine Haight (California) who lost her son Ryan to prescription drugs ordered over the Internet; Don and Gwen Hooton (Texas) whose son Taylor committed suicide after steroid use; Kim and Marissa Manlove (Indiana) who lost their son David to inhalant abuse; Kate Patton (Illinois) whose daughter Kelley died from an Ecstasy overdose; David Pease (Connecticut) the father of Dave who was lost to heroin and Casey who died in an alcohol-related accident; Imelda Perez, sister of Irma who died from Ecstasy at age 14; and Linda Surks, whose son Jason ordered prescription drugs over the Internet and died as a result of an overdose.

DEA’s webpage, www.dea.gov, will feature excerpts from interview with parents weekly beginning today with Ginger Katz, who lost her son Ian to heroin in 1999. Additional information on the vigil, and the entire text of “An Open Letter to Families Everywhere” can be found at www.nationalparentvigil.com

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