NILES, Ohio (WKBN) – Hundreds in Niles took a stand against addiction on Saturday.
Their message, straight to the point, was letting drug addicts know that help is available.
George Wagner lost both of his sons, Mark and Duke, to addiction within four months of each other. It’s a pain he has to live with every day.
“I always told them…’The streets are going to kill you,’ and they did. It got both of them,” he said.
He’s not alone.
“The reality of it is all too real for me. I have a family member that’s been addicted for about 30 plus years now,” said Sarah Whitaker of the Hubbard Township Police Department. “I’m aware of it and I’ve had a lot of people that I went to school with pass away from it.”
That’s why Samantha Hird and her friend, Erica Clay, decided to put on the Niles Walk Against Heroin.
“We need to be more aware of this problem and not to just push it aside,” Hird said. “Junkies is what a lot of people will call them and it’s not that, it’s somebody’s mother, it’s somebody’s daughter, it’s somebody’s son.”
“Niles is a small town. I grew up here,” Clay said. “I’m 31. I lost over 70 friends to overdose and family members. That’s a lot of people in this little town.”
Hundreds of people showed up, all supporting each other and remembering loved ones lost to the epidemic.
They’re also teaching people about the problem and ways to help, such as the PAARI initiative, aimed at taking the crime out of addiction. Nicole Walmsley is spearheading the movement and talking with police departments across the Valley to try to get them on board.
“The police department gives an option for the addicts to bring in their drugs and surrender,” Walmsley said. “Then they would find a rehab facility that donates their scholarships to put these addicts in rehab and they usually get in the day they turned themselves in.”
All in all, those who showed up and walked together on Saturday, just want to help.
“It’s everywhere, you know what I mean?” Clay said. “We have to try to do something. If we keep just shoving them off and we don’t want to deal with it, it’s not going to get any better.”