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City, advocacy group to honour those lost to opioid epidemic

International Overdose Awareness Day to be observed through Memorial Wall unveiling on August 31
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The City of Sault Ste. Marie and Save Our Young Adults (SOYA) group are partnering together once again to continue honouring those lost to the opioid epidemic during International Overdose Awareness Day, taking place on Aug. 31, a news release issued today states. 

The event will begin at 5 p.m. with the unveiling of the memorial wall at the Civic Centre. This wall will recognize and remember family members, friends and loved ones who have lost their lives battling addiction, the release explains.

A gathering will follow at Roberta Bondar Pavilion.

The full release is as follows:

The past four years in Ontario alone, over 14,000 family, friends, loved ones and community members have died to overdose (City News, 2020). Every one of those 14,000 overdoses was preventable. Aug. 31, marks International Overdose Awareness day and Save Our Young Adults (SOYA) group will host its annual event to honour those lost to the opioid epidemic.  

Beginning at 5 p.m. on this day, Mayor Provenzano and Connie Raynor Elliott, founder of SOYA, will unveil the city’s memorial wall at the Ronald A. Irwin Civic Centre north lawn. The Memorial Wall recognizes and remembers family members, friends and loved ones who have tragically lost their lives to drug poisoning.

“The Opioid Epidemic continues to have a challenging and difficult impact on our community. The City welcomed the opportunity to work with SOYA on a way to recognize the lives lost and the lives affected by addiction and substance use,” said Mayor Christian Provenzano. “It is critical for our community to send a message of support and understanding to people suffering from and fighting through mental health and addiction challenges and those supporting them, so that all members of our community know that they are important and cared about. I hope the Memorial Wall will further our efforts.”  

The Memorial Wall includes a star with the names of those lost in the community to opioids and other drug addictions. The space is surrounded by beautiful gardens and offers a quiet setting for surviving loved ones to grieve. The memorial wall is open to all community members who lost someone to substance or addiction disorders.  

Following the unveiling of the Memorial Wall, guests will walk along the boardwalk to the Roberta Bondar Pavilion for a free barbecue dinner and refreshments. Those joining the walk are encouraged to bring signs, pictures or other mementoes to carry in honour of lost loved ones. The opening ceremony will begin at 5:45 p.m. with guest speakers and community partners in attendance including free Narcan education and training. Participation in the barbecue is free for everyone.

“It’s time to shatter the silence and break the stigma of substance use disorder,” said Connie Raynor Elliott, president of SOYA. “The opioid crisis is far spread across North America and many communities are working to end the stigma of drug abuse and observe the issue through various memorials. The concept of the Memorial Wall and walk was developed to help bring people together, to support grieving families and show that there are many community members who are gone but not forgotten.”  

If you would like your loved ones name placed on the Memorial Wall application forms will be available at the community event on Tuesday, Aug. 31 or contact SOYA at soyarefers@gmail.com.  

SOYA's Annual International Overdose Awareness Day Event 2021 is generously sponsored by HepCare Program, Ontario Aboriginal HIV/AIDS Strategy (OAHAS), Kickstart Mental Health, Strong Minds, Big Lake Cabin, Roy Graham Trucking, Stones Office Supply, Machine Shop at the Canal District, YesYouCan Employment, O'Sullivan Funeral Home, Gateview Realty, Citizens Helping Addicts and Alcoholics Get Treatment (CHAAT), Tim Hortons and Breton House.