It can happen to any family.
That’s the reality Shelton’s Julia Markarian has learned all too well since losing her son, Stephen Medeiros, to a drug overdose six years ago.
And, while Markarian’s and her family’s lives are forever changed, she believes in the reality of hope and recovery too.
That’s what encouraged her to start the Fighting Against Drugs Everywhere (FADE) 5K four years ago, in her son’s memory.
The FADE 5K returns to the Shelton Riverwalk Pavilion on Thursday, Aug. 30 — promoting hope, healing recovery and erasing stigma.
“It’s about bringing awareness and showing people there is nothing to be ashamed of,” Markarian said. “Resources are out there.”
Supporting prevention and addiction resources is one of the goals of the event. Proceeds are donated to BHCare, which offers regional mental health and addiction services. Pam Mautte, who is the director of the Alliance for Prevention & Wellness at BHCare, said the money from the event goes directly to youth-based substance abuse prevention.
The 5K includes speakers and tables with resources to reach out to the community. Mautte said those resources have connected people to services and support groups in past years.
“The event has tripled in size over the past couple of years and what’s really special is how the community comes together,” Mautte said. “Addiction is a disease and we need to be talking about it.”
Drug overdoses and drug overdose deaths continue to rise at an alarming rate. Last year, 1,038 Connecticut residents died due to drug overdoses, according to BHCare. Both prescription painkillers and heroin are contributing to this phenomenon according to the agency.
“Prevention does work and we’re saving lives,” Mautte said.
Markarian’s said it is bittersweet to see that addiction services and help have grown so much since her son’s death. Markarian’s son sought help on multiple occasions but she wishes more help had been available.
“Then, I didn’t have all these resources — I didn’t know where to go,” Markarian said. “I hear stories of recovery now — my son didn’t make it — but I’m really glad someone else does.”
The FADE 5K starts at 5:45 p.m. at the Shelton Pavilion and Riverwalk on Aug. 30.
This year’s event will include a professionally-timed sunset 5K run/walk, live music, resource fair and will conclude with a candlelight remembrance ceremony. Names will be read of loved ones lost to overdose. People can submit names at the event to be read aloud.
This year’s race will take a different route than the prior year, crossing over the Derby-Shelton Bridge and back.
Early Registration is $25, plus a $2.50 sign up fee and a free T-shirt if you register before August 17. Race day registration is $30.
Last year, more than 150 participants signed up and Markarian is hoping for similar, if not better, participation this year. She encourages everyone to join the cause and show their support for those struggling with addiction.
“I want this event to be about hope,” she said.