The photographs carried along the route of yesterday’s overdose awareness march in White Rock had a common theme: young faces, with bright smiles that emanated hope.
But there was also a distinct sadness to their inclusion in the walk – all of them have fallen victim to the ongoing overdose crisis.
To name just a few: Zachary Plett, who died last December; Brodie Clements, who died in April of last year; Cheyenne Sekura, who died exactly two months before Clements; and Jerry Verge, aka Mecca, who died at the age of 31.
Remembering loved ones lost was a key focus of Wednesday afternoon’s march, which was held to mark International Overdose Awareness Day (Aug. 31) and drew dozens of people to gather in front of White Rock City Hall.
There were grieving parents and other family members, counsellors and recovery home operators, city officials and people who are currently in recovery themselves.
Several who were not carrying photographs of loved ones – and even some who were – made the trek through White Rock’s uptown neighbourhood, along Johnston Road to 18 Avenue and 152 Street and back, carrying placards with messages including ‘No more stigma, No more shame,’ ‘Unite for safe supply and decrim.’ and ‘Talking about overdose could save a life.’
Purple bracelets with the words ‘time to remember. time to act’ were distributed, and many who participated wore purple shirts as well – a colour symbolizing awareness of overdose and its effects; the loss of a loved one; and support to those grieving.
The quiet, reflective march, organized by members of the White Rock South Surrey Overdose Response Community Action Team, was about “inviting the community to just take a moment to bring awareness,” Sources Community Resource Centre’s manager of counselling and substance use George Passmore told Peace Arch News last week, in promoting the event.
It was also hoped to encourage conversations that don’t stigmatize a drug-related death or the struggle with addiction, and promote knowledge of White Rock’s opioid agonist treatment (OAT) clinic.
The clinic, which opened in December at 15521 Russell Ave., provides doctor-referred opioid addicts with medications such as methadone and Suboxone, to help manage the symptoms of cravings and withdrawal.
Passmore told PAN the clinic is a positive step in tackling the crisis, and already has “at least 75” patients.
“I think there are good things happening that are making a difference,” he said.