F.A.D.E blood drive raises awareness for drug epidemic

It has been nearly 4 years since the Markarian family of Shelton tragically lost their son and brother Stephen Medeiros’ to a drug overdose. Now, June 4 or Stephen’s birthday is an understandably emotional day for family and friends.

In an effort to raise awareness for the ongoing drug epidemic, Stephen’s mother Julia Markarian organized a blood drive in his name which took place Saturday June 4 at the Huntington Methodist Church.

With the help of family and friends, Markarian’s blood drive tribute to her son was a success and received the maximum amount of registered donors possible, as well as several walk-ins. Donors also received commemorative bracelets and birthday cake for Stephen.

Markarian said the blood drive made her happy and she couldn’t have made it this far without the support system she has gained since the tragic loss of her son.

“Stephen would be happy. I’m so fortunate to have everyone helping me,” said Markarian. “We wanted at least 30 donors , but we had 52 signups. He’d be proud. I think I’m doing this for me at this point because it’s keeping him alive and out here and is putting a positive spin on a tragedy.”

Stephen’s aunt, Lynn Markarian and family friend Giovanna Pisani said they wanted to help in any way they could to make sure Medeiros’ memory lives on.

“Our hope is that the more we come together for informational events like this, the more we show the dangers of drugs, and the more awareness we raise will all help families involved in this ongoing epidemic,” said Giovanna Pisani who helped work the registration table for the blood drive. “Of course there will always be drugs everywhere and people are always going to experiment, but we want people to make more educated choices.”

Pisani said the staff could feel Stephen’s presence during blood drive and although they weren’t sure if he had ever given blood, he would be proud of their efforts.

June 4 will always be an emotional day for family and friends of Stephen Medeiros, but their efforts come with hopes of preventing another family from experiencing similar grief, according to Julia Markarian.

The family is interested in making the blood drive an annual event, but they’re currently awaiting confirmation from a Red Cross coordinator.

Among residents in attendance, parents who also lost children attended and donated at the blood drive.

One woman said the bond between parents who experienced the loss of a child is uncomparable to any other resource available.

Markarian said she regularly attends support meetings to help with her own as well as other’s grieving process.

She also emphasized the importance of parents playing their role as parents first, rather than worrying about a friendship with their children. Markarian said she makes an effort to talk with her 15 year old son because of her experience with Stephen.

She said she attends various support groups across the state and says the bond she’s built with group members has given her strength to deal with the loss of her son in positive ways.

“We don’t want our young kids to even try it once especially with the high risk of drugs being laced with other things and chemicals,” said Markarian. “Once might get you addicted.”

Markarian clarified the epidemic is something that affects much more than the person battling addiction or using the drug.

“One time could change theirs and their family’s lives forever,” said Markarian. “Everyone that loves them struggles too.”

She added the second annual Fighting Against Drugs Everywhere 5K walk/run fundraiser will take place in September, but her team is currently awaiting the confirmation of a date. All proceeds will go to Valley Substance Abuse Council and their efforts to raise drug awareness.