The inaugural year for the F.A.D.E 5K walk/run fundraiser was a success, said Markarian, who created the event.
One detail that stuck out to Markarian was that after the race ended was the participants stayed around, talked and bonded over their experiences.
With 69 runners participating in the fundraiser, Markarian’s expectations were surpassed which meant a lot to her because the meaning behind the event is a cause dear to her heart.
“I felt it was important to bring more drug awareness into the community, especially after my son passed away after battling addiction,” said Markarian. “My goal was to have 50 runners, I couldn’t have ever imagined it turning out to be as successful as it was. We 69 by sign up and 13 walk-ins.”
Markarian’s son Steven Markarian died three years ago after losing the battle of addiction to heroin.
“He really fought,” said Markarian. “He would tell me ‘I don’t want to be this person.’ and I knew he didn’t. He tried. He went to a rehab in Florida and had his life together, but one thing led to another so it ended up not working. I think he’s proud of what we did.”
According to drugabuse.gov, there has been a steady increase in the number of deaths coming as a result of heroin use. In 2013, more than 8,000 deaths were recorded.
With the option of doing other forms of fundraisers such as food collections and blood drives, Markarian said she felt a 5K is what Steven would have wanted.
“Seeing the numbers increase on the online signup sheet was so exciting for me,” said Markarian. “I was surprised with the number of people who came out to support us. I don’t think I could have survived without them.”
Support groups have become a big part of Markarian’s life as she said the loss of her child is something that can’t be understood unless you have felt the same pain.
“We (members of the support groups) can finish eachother’s sentences because we all walk in the same footsteps. It’s amazing,” said Markarian. “We sit in a room with 10 or 15 people and share our stories, some sad and some happy, but having the comfort of someone who has been through the same tragedy as you is something that can’t be replaced.”
As a parent, Markarian said one of the biggest goals is to keep the child’s memory alive. Markarian said Steven lives on through his dog Hank whom she inherited after his death.
“Hank is tough, he’s a German Shephard. He’s bitten me twice, but it’s almost like having his kid,” said Markarian. “It’s hard, I didn’t want a dog. We walk every night and we talk about him, well I talk to Hank. He looks up and I swear he’s with us. Hank was a part of him. There were times that I wanted to get rid of him. Tried to find him a home, but it had to be the perfect home.”
Time has made the pain lessen a little for Markarian, but she said her fight against raising awareness is far from over. She said she hopes to continue to grow this event as well as start a non-profit organization for those who are battling addiction.
“I’ve been finding out it’s a lot of work, but after this fundraiser and being able to put money towards the cause is part of what motivates me to do this,” said Markarian. “Plus I have a 14-year-old at home. I don’t want him to go down the same path.”
Markarian encourages all parents to bring up the conversation about drug use and addiction.
“They may hate you for it, but our job as parents isn’t to be their best friend,” said Markarian. “I don’t want another family to have to go through what we did. I would love the problem to stop all together, but if I can help one person that would really make me happy.”