Elks, community 'Walk Out On Drugs'

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  • Christina Fagan, in the blue sweatshirt, mans the table for "A Change For Nick." Her son, Nicholas, seen in the photo on the table, died from a heroin overdose three years ago.

  • Eric Koster gave words of hope to families and others in recovery.

  • Thor, an 8-year-old K-9 with the Passaic County Sheriff's Department, gives a demonstration.

  • The weather didn't keep people away from the Walk Out On Drugs Event at the Elks Sunday morning.

  • Informational displays were there to educate parents and kids.

  • Councilwoman Michele Dale and Skip McLaughlin of the New Life Recovery talked during the event.

  • The Elks' Laura Paul addressed the crowd at the beginning of the event.

  • People left messages of hope and remembrance.

  • Folks listened intently to all of the speakers before walking laps around the gym.

  • Those who participated were treated to a hot dog lunch.

  • West Milford's CASA was present and handing out information about drug abuse.

"Don't give up."
Eric Koster, West Milford resident and recovering addict

The Elks, along with the West Milford Municipal Alliance, hosted its second annual Walk Out On Drugs event last Sunday morning. The rain simply moved the event inside to the West Milford Recreation Center, but it couldn't dampen the resolve of the attendees. They were there to spread the word about the dangers of addiction, the programs available to educate both kids and parents to prevent drug use, and also to share their stories.

It was a very personal and emotional event for Karen Kenney. Her cousin, Casey, died just three months ago from a heroin overdose. It's important for her to be at the event, she said, so people know there is more to a someone than just being an addict.

"She (Casey) was much more than an addict," said Kenney. "She was a beautiful person. She was a mother, a daughter, a sister. She didn't want to be this."

The Elks' Laura Paul opened the event by speaking about the scourge of addiction on West Milford and every other community.

"It's everywhere," she told the group. "Addiction just doesn't care. This epidemic has reached us all."

Christina Fagan knows that all too well. She lost her son, Nick, nearly three years ago from a heroin overdose. She spoke about her group, "A Change For Nick," and getting people the information and help they need.

"We all know it starts with awareness," she said. "The next step is prevention."

She spoke, too, about the drug crisis throughout the nation.

"Addiction is a disease of the brain," said Fagan. "The earlier you start using drugs, the better the chance to become addicted. We are in the middle of the nation's worst crises ever - opioid addiction."

Eric Koster also took to the mic. Koster is three and a half years clean and sober. He talked about his journey, acknowledging those who he hurt along the way, but giving hope too.

"It's not easy, but it's not impossible either," he said about recovery. "Don't give up."

Officers from the Passaic County Sheriffs Department K9 Unit were on hand and gave a demonstration with Thor, their 8-year-old shepherd.

West Milford police Det. Eric Darnsteadt talked to community members about the department's involvement in prevention programs at the schools and through other community groups.

"West Milford police are here to support the community and to the support this event. We're here to support in your recovery."

And of course, there were enthusiastic people, wearing ribbons. Yellow ribbons represented support; green ribbons represented those who have lost someone to drugs and purple ribbons were worn by those in recovery. And their was a display wall with messages for those who have been lost to this disease as well as messages of hope to those fighting it, including one that said "Where there is life, there is hope."

The money raised at the event will be used for drug awareness materials.

For more information, go to AChangeForNick.org or contact the West Milford Police at 973-728-2800.

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