Roscoe's Live R.E.A.L. Foundation hosts opioid overdose awareness ceremony in Rockford

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Nicholas Conservatory was lit up in purple on August 31, 2021 in observance of International Overdose Awareness Day.

As part of International Overdose Awareness Day on August 31, Live R.E.A.L. Foundation of Roscoe held a memorial ceremony 7:15 p.m. at the Lagoon at the Nicholas Conservatory & Gardens in Rockford for those lost to opioid overdose. Three churches near the conservatory rang their church bells at 7:10 p.m. A moment of silence was held and a flower petal was released into the lagoon for each life lost to overdose in Illinois in 2020 - nearly 3,000.  The Nicholas Conservatory lit up its entrance, columns, and north and south sides with purple lights. The City of Rockford lit up the Morgan Street Bridge, Rockford City Hall, and South Main Street Archway with purple lights for a week.

But the event was practical as well as commemorative. Multiple agencies, including Live R.E.A.L. Foundation and the Winnebago County Health Department, provided naloxone training in 15 minutes or less to individuals. Participants received a Narcan kit upon training completion. Organizers also gave out at-home medication disposal kits for unused prescriptions. The Winnebago County Health Department continues to provide virtual naloxone training opportunities throughout September.


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Multiple municipalities joined Winnebago County in signing proclamations recognizing International Overdose Awareness Day. As part of its proclamation at the Village of Roscoe's August 17 meeting, Village President Mark Szula presented a plaque to Bev Pomering, the founder and director of Live R.E.A.L. Foundation. Last month, the Roscoe Police Department agreed to work with the Winnebago County Health Department in implementing a drug overdose prevention program, including instructional programs on the use of Narcan. Other municipalities recognizing International Overdose Awareness Day include Rockton, Village of Winnebago, Machesney Park, South Beloit, Pecatonica, Roscoe, and Durand.

Even in Roscoe, miles from the big city, opioids have affected families and individuals for years. When Jay Rogers of Roscoe died from a heroin overdose in 2014, his younger sister Rebecca organized an annual Drug Overdose Awareness Walk. Family and friends carry signs with names and photos of the ones they have lost, with the words from the Bible, "Mercy Triumphs Over Judgement.

In 2017, Sue Ellen Shultz of Roscoe talked to WIFR about her son Dane Shultz , a 2004 graduate of Hononegah Community High School who lost his struggle with addiction on Thursday, March 10, 2016. “I think people, to look at our family, would think we had a problem-free, idyllic family… it can happen to anyone,” says Sue Ellen. "I think the thing that affected him the most was the guilt that he had, knowing he wasn't where he wanted to be... attitudes need to change. Acceptance, less judgment, more mercy… "

Bev Pomering of Live R.E.A.L. Foundation says her son Alex - also raised in Roscoe - started with marijuana and alcohol at age 13, before his death in August 2019 at age 20 from a fentanyl overdose with heroin.  After his death, Bev & Terry were told that Alex's shame over his use of cocaine and heroin were the reasons he hadn't told his parents. Alex had tried to fight the addiction, but without the support from his family and with the pressures of social stigma, he had even less of a chance to. Notecards and prints of his artwork  from the age of 5 through 17 are available on Etsy, with all proceeds going to the Live R.E.A.L. Foundation.

According to the Winnebago County Opioid Response Team (WC-ORT), in 2020, 157 Winnebago County residents - our family, friends, and colleagues - lost their lives due to opioid overdose. On August 10, Roscoe Police Chief Jamie Evans said there had been 19 overdose cases in Roscoe so far in 2021.

Nicholas Conservatory, August 31, 2021
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