Families Take Part in First National Candlelight Vigil for “Lost Promises”
-- (Washington, D.C) The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) hosted the first-ever Candlelight Vigil Thursday, June 8th at DEA Headquarters in Arlington, VA. The “Vigil for Lost Promise” was the first of its kind remembrance – of those who have died from drugs, and the first of its kind of hope: hope and confidence that our work is shielding others from the great tragedy of drugs.
Dr. Lonise Bias joined other parents in sharing her story, twenty years after the cocaine-related death of her son, Len, a Maryland basketball player who died in 1986 just two days after being the second overall selection in the NBA draft.
The Vigil was co-sponsored by CADCA, National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), and Ginger Katz, President of the Courage to Speak Foundation, who acted as the Honorary Chairperson for the event. Eight families who have suffered the loss of a loved one to drugs also attended the Vigil, representing all of those who have lost family members, friends and children.
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 helps 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.