KAMLOOPS — Friends and family members gathered at Riverside Park this afternoon (Aug. 31) to celebrate the lives of their loved ones while having candid conversations about the tragic way those lives were lost.
"We really need to share our stories and encourage people to listen, that's the big thing: listen," said Sherry Robinson.
Robinson is one of two local women responsible for initiatiating the International Overdose Awareness Day event in Kamloops. Both have lost sons to drug overdoses.
"When my son was going through this in the past eight years prior to his death, there was a lot of shame and stigma, and there wasn't the openness to talk about what I was going through," Robinson said. "I was really concerned about how I was being judged as a parent, a single parent, and it was hard for him to connect to services."
Today's event aims to erase the stigma and connect people with the information and tools they need to help themselves or others dealing with drug addiction.
Chris Bose facilitates art projects for people of all ages, and decided to learn how to administer Naloxone in case of an emergency.
"The training was simple, and clear," Bose said. "I definitely feel better having the training and the tools to take care of somebody if something happens."
B.C. declared a public health emergency last April amid a growing number of illicit drug overdose deaths. At least 780 people have fatally overdosed in B.C. this year.
"British Columbians, and Canadians from all walks of life are impacted by this terrible epidemic," said former Health Minister Terry Lake. "I think we have learned a lot, and we need to continue to learn, and expand, and look for creative solutions."
Until those solutions have been found, grieving families will continue to gather together for support, like the family of Tyler Laybolt. Laybolt was a talented young musician who left behind a record deal and a son when he died last November.
"At the end of the day, we love eachother, we love him, and for us to keep Tyler in Jake's spirit and being we do so many outings with him, we make sure we wear our shirts, and he remembers his dad's face," said Tyler's aunt, Angie Dzaman.
While International Overdose Awareness Day won't bring Tyler back to his family, it does aid the healing process.
"We'll never get over it, we're never going to be what we were, but we can be stronger in a different way. Things like this unify us, it shows us that we're not all alone and we get to heal."
Internation Overdose Awareness Day events will continue at Riverside Park until 9 p.m. tonight (Aug. 31).
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