On Monday evening, area residents gathered at Veteran’s Park in Lockport, putting forth a public display of compassion for those struggling with addiction, and a place to mourn those already lost. The annual event, which is marked by International Overdose Awareness Day, provides speakers and a candlelit vigil for those attending.
Tom Byrne, a resident of Lyndonville in Orleans County, has played a leading role since day one (four years ago) in the establishment of this event in Lockport. Every year he and other committed members of our area fight for citizen access to rehabilitation, housing, and sometimes just a human connection with someone who cares. Someone who can spark your decision to change.
Speaking first, Byrne remarked on rapid spike in recent overdoses, “We realized that the need for this event was greater than any other year we have faced. Overdoses are up almost 38% right now. In Erie County, there were 163 overdose deaths this year. In Niagara County, there were 43 deaths. Now one is too much, but those numbers are staggering.”
Angela Robertson, whose son Stephen Canastraro died on Aug. 24, 2018 from a heroin overdose, spoke about the child she lost. “He had a job, he had dreams. He was a sweet, sweet young man. He was my son,” she said to the crowd.
Robertson wanted to be clear how fast an addiction can progress, stating, “From the time he picked it up until the time I laid my son to rest it was four months.” She added, “The last four weeks of his life we tried to get help. Avi Israel and Save The Michaels of this Word was instrumental in keeping him alive as long he was.”
Robertson also conveyed to the audience, “You have to be the advocate for your loved ones. You have to make some noise for your loved ones.”
This years International Overdose Awareness event in Lockport was sponsored and delivered by Independent Living of Niagara County (ILNC), Save the Michaels of this Word, and several other acting volunteers dedicated to fighting addiction in Western New York.