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VIDEOS/PHOTOS: Love, Remembrance and Hope at The HERO Project 1st Annual Candlelight Vigil, Raises Awareness About Addiction

Report by Paula Antolini
September 7, 2017 2:56PM EDT

 

Photo: Luminaria bags line the stone walkway of the Bethel United Methodist church at the August 31, 2017,  HERO Project 1st Annual Candlelight Vigil in Bethel, CT.

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Love, Remembrance and Hope at The HERO Project 1st Annual Candlelight Vigil, Raises Awareness About Addiction

The 26 glowing white Luminaria bags, placed along the curved stone walkway in front of the open doors of the Bethel United Methodist church, were inscribed with names of those lost to addiction. These individuals were shining bright in the hearts of those who loved them, at the 1st Annual HERO Project Candlelight Vigil and Food Drive, on Aug. 31st.  Food was being collected for the Bethel Community Food Pantry (located in the basement of the church).  This event was being held simultaneously in various towns across the state and nation, on International Overdose Awareness Day.

Approximately 35 supporters stood silent on the lawn of the Bethel United Methodist church, as they held lit candles in remembrance during the vigil, while the names of those who passed were read aloud by Pastor John Parille. The church chimes rang out simultaneously like melodic tears in the cool air of the night, as the sky darkened.

 

Photo: Supporters hold lit candles and stand in silence at the August 31st, 2017, HERO Project 1st Annual Candlelight Vigil in Bethel, CT.  On the left is the 2017 First Selectman candidate Cynthia McCorkindale and second from left is CT State Representative Will Duff.

 

The HERO Project held its 1st Annual Candlelight Vigil & Food Drive on International Overdose Awareness Day, August 31, which took place on the front lawn of the Bethel United Methodist Church located at 141 Greenwood Avenue, in Bethel, CT.

Donald Olson is the founder of the recently formed “HERO Project” in Bethel, Ct.  The HERO name represents “Heroin Education to Resist Opiates.” 

The Bethel HERO Project’s mission is “A caring community working together to raise awareness through education and events about the need to resist heroin and opiate abuse.” 

Don Olson spoke first, and said he was at the vigil in memory of his nephew Timothy Vail, 23 years old, who lost his life to addiction.  “Great kid, a lot fun, died from a heroin overdose,” Olson said.

“With that experience in our family, after talking to other people, we were fortunate enough to meet at Molten Java about a year and a half ago, and try to at least do something to make some awareness for other families. It’s a huge epidemic, there’s no answer for it other than community, which is what we’re doing today.”

“We have this little hashtag we do that’s called #letsHERO.  Well right now we are HERO,” said Olson.

Olson said, “Our mission is to stop the problem before it starts.” We do this through education, letting families and young people, and people of all ages, know about the epidemic that’s taking over, Olson said.

 

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Jeff McKenna, President of the The HERO Project group, spoke next. He stood by a small blue candle placed next to him on the steps of the church, as he spoke to the crowd, and noted that blue is the color of recovery, and September 1st starts National Recovery Month.  He said, “Tonight we are going to celebrate the lives of those who were lost, and tomorrow we are going to hope and pray for those who are in addiction and getting into recovery.”

 

Photo: HERO Project President Jeff McKenna holds a candle up during his speech at the August 31, 2017,  HERO Project 1st Annual Candlelight Vigil in Bethel, CT. 

 

As McKenna raised a small white candle up high, he said, “Last night, this was just a candle. This evening, this candle, along with many others around the world, will become something totally and completely different. Before it is even lit…  To the person holding the candle, it will represent another person. It will have a name. It will have a story. It will represent the darkness that person was feeling while in addiction.  And it will represent the dark empty hole in someone’s heart because addiction took that special someone away from them. A dad, a mom, a brother, a sister, a friend – someone no longer here with us – loved deeply and missed terribly.”

McKenna bent down and lit the candle he was holding in his hand, with the blue candle that was already burning, and said, “BUT when the wick touches the flame it begins to burn brightly. The candle with the name, the person, the story will shine with hope. Hope that the person it represents is in a ‘much better place’ no longer suffering, no longer fighting, no longer in such a dark and lonely place that the only way to not feel was to fall into the depths of addiction and ultimately overdose.”

He continued, “And the light from that one loved and remembered soul represented by the candle will pass its light to the next, and to the next, and so on… little beacons of light and hope… all shining brightly as one for one night. Hope for those who lost their loved ones, hope for those in the struggle now. No ONE will be ALONE. Only light can defeat darkness.”

 

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Pastor Parille, who graciously allowed the event to take place on the front lawn of the Bethel Methodist church, said, “I saw this as two events in one because it’s an event of remembrance, but it’s an event of hope.” He said the work that was being done by The HERO Project is “shining light into the darkness,” as he credited founder Don Olson as saying.

Pastor Parille said, “What really brings me hope is that as I think about the life of Jesus, he accepted everyone where they were at, no matter where they were at … he took them where they were and he loved upon them, and I know that is what is represented here by these candles that are lit.”

Pastor Parille continued, “These individuals who lost their lives, were loved, they were loved unconditionally. And this hope that we have now is that this stigma that has been present for so many years, that ‘Oh it’s their own fault, they can fix it themselves,’ this is what the hope is, and it’s encouraging to me that this community is coming together. So we should take hope in that tonight. Yes, of course, remember the ones that were lost, but also the hope of all that’s going on, all the education, all the awareness, and all the lives that will be saved.”

 

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Guitarist Marc Huberman provided beautiful music on acoustic guitar, during the event.

The Candlelight Vigil is intended to be an opportunity for the community to come together for strength and comfort, and to remember those who have lost their lives due to the struggle with addiction.

The HERO Project recently received an award for “2017 Best of Bethel Non-Profit of the Year” from the Bethel Chamber of Commerce.

#letsHERO

 

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VIEW MORE PHOTOS OF THE EVENT BELOW (and VIDEOS are below photos).

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Photo: Some of the members of the HERO Project group at the August 31, 2017, HERO Project 1st Annual Candlelight Vigil in Bethel, CT.

 

Photo: A crowd gathers on the sidewalk in front of thr Bethel United Methodist church at the August 31, 2017, HERO Project 1st Annual Candlelight Vigil in Bethel, CT.

 

 

Photo: HERO Project founder Don Olson chats with supporters at the August 31, 2017, HERO Project 1st Annual Candlelight Vigil in Bethel, CT. 

 

Photo: HERO Project President Jeff McKenna lights s a Luminaria candle at the August 31, 2017, HERO Project 1st Annual Candlelight Vigil in Bethel, CT. 

 

Photo: (Left) 2017 First Selectman candidate Cynthia McCorkindale chats with CT State Representative Will Duff at the August 31, 2017, HERO Project 1st Annual Candlelight Vigil in Bethel, CT.

 

Photo: HERO Project founder Don Olson places Luminaria bag on the sidewalk at the August 31, 2017, HERO Project 1st Annual Candlelight Vigil in Bethel, CT.

 

Photo: HERO Project founder Don Olson (right) gives a speech at the August 31, 2017, HERO Project 1st Annual Candlelight Vigil in Bethel, CT.

 

 

 

Photo: Marc Huberman plays beautiful music on an acoustic guitar as HERO Project founder Don Olson looks on, holding a candle, at the August 31, 2017, HERO Project 1st Annual Candlelight Vigil in Bethel, CT. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo: (Center) Mrs. Olson, mother of HERO Project founder Don Olson (partially shown far left) embraces another HERO Project member, at the August 31, 2017, HERO Project 1st Annual Candlelight Vigil in Bethel, CT.

 

Photo: (Left) HERO Project founder Don Olson, is arm in arm with HERO Project President Jeff McKenna, as they share a poignant moment at the end of the August 31, 2017, HERO Project 1st Annual Candlelight Vigil in Bethel, CT.

 

Photo: HERO Project founder Don Olson holds the award recently presented to the HERO Project for “2017 Best of Bethel Non-Profit of the Year,” and the award was proudly displayed at at the August 31, 2017, HERO Project 1st Annual Candlelight Vigil in Bethel, CT.

 

 

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VIEW VIDEOS BELOW:

 

The 1st Annual HERO Project Candlelight Vigil and Food Drive / Part 1: HERO Project Founder Don Olson introductory speech

 

The 1st Annual HERO Project Candlelight Vigil and Food Drive / Part 2: HERO Project President Jeff McKenna speech, Pastor John Pastille speech, Reading of Names of Those Who Have Passed, Crowd Holding Candles, Moment of Silence

 

The 1st Annual HERO Project Candlelight Vigil and Food Drive / A Shared Moment …

 

The 1st Annual HERO Project Candlelight Vigil and Food Drive / Guitarist Marc Huberman

Click here to view guitarist Marc Huberman’s performance

 

The 1st Annual HERO Project Candlelight Vigil and Food Drive / Crowd gathers

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The HERO Project

The HERO name represents “Heroin Education to Resist Opiates.” 

WEBSITE: heroherohero.org

Facebook:  “The HERO Project,” Heroin and Opiate Awareness

Thanks to founder Don E. Olson, a small group of concerned citizens gathered in Bethel a year and a half ago, to brainstorm about how to bring awareness to the heroin and opiates addiction problem plaguing young people in our Connecticut communities, and how to save lives.  They quickly realized there are many aspects to address concerning this issue including how to determine if your child is at risk and what parents can do, or who whom they can turn for advice or solutions, if there is a problem with drugs.
The group offers information and sources to lead you to the professionals in the field.  Their aim is to create awareness about addiction, but they do not tell you which choice to take for help, recovery or rehabilitation, as each case is individual and may work differently, for different individuals or situations, based on many factors.  They instead provide much information and sources for you to decide upon based on your particular situation.
They have held many public events, such as the “HERO Town Hall” and “Pizza Challenge” to fund raise and spread awareness about opioids addiction and recovery.

#letsHERO

 

herologoyellow

 

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