2 Virginia Beach moms speak to high school students about losing daughters to drugs

Posted at 3:41 PM, May 27, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-28 12:15:47-04

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. - The opioid drug problem is plaguing our community, and too many young people are dying across the country.

A new program in Virginia Beach City Public Schools aims to get kids thinking and talking about the dangers of drug use.

School Board members Carolyn Weems and Shannon Doyle spent the week going into several classrooms, speaking about the loss of their daughters.

Doyle's daughter, Makayla Cox, was only 16 for two weeks before she died.

Doyle said on January 21, they watched movies together during the snowstorm. In the morning, Doyle said Cox passed away in bed.

The toxicology report shows that Cox died from fentanyl.

Weems' daughter Caitlyn was just 21 when she died in 2013. After an injury, she got hooked on pain medication, which lead to a heroin addiction.

Friday, Weems and Doyle were at Ocean Lakes High School — but all week, they’ve spent hours going to schools across the city to share their stories.

Noland Schmidt, 30, has been clean for two and a half years after struggling with a drug addiction for 17 years. He started smoking weed when he was 11 years old, and things escalated to cocaine and heroin.

“I grew up in a neighborhood where you were either using drugs or selling. I didn’t really know anything else,” Schmidt said.

News 3 asked him why he decided to get sober.

He said he got sober when he watched a lot of friends overdose and die.

“And my sister wouldn’t let me see my nephews, and they are the light of my life. That was kind of a wake-up call for me," Schmidt said. "I had already overdosed three or four times by the time I got clean. I was just tired of the cycle of the pain and being trapped."

He said he was self-medicating due to the unresolved pain he was feeling.

Schmidt, Weems, Doyle, an officer from the Virginia Beach Police Department and Saulo Oritz from Life Change Institute spent the week sharing their stories with Virginia Beach high school students.

Oritz has been a counselor for 20 years. The motto at Life Change Institute is, "Transforming lives to what they were meant to be."

He also runs the Meridian Psychotherapy Services LLC.

“If it wasn’t for Saulo, I probably would be dead right now,” Schmidt said.

“It’s time to do something. They’re tired of losing their classmates. They’re tired of keeping silent,” Ortiz said.

“I tell the kids the tragedy of our daughters’ stories. Their deaths were preventable, and in my case Caitlyn‘s addiction was treatable, but we didn’t know enough back then,” Weems said.

But we also know that more kids are dying.

The Journal of the American Medical Association found that overdose deaths from 2019 to 2020 nearly doubled in the US for kids between 14 and 18 — and during the first part of 2021, overdose deaths saw another 20% increase.

“It takes about a grain of salt of fentanyl to kill you, and they seized thousands of pounds in Virginia Beach,” Weems said.

These people are sharing their heartbreak in an effort to help other families.

“The grief journey doesn’t necessarily get easier, but you learn how to manage your life from that huge hole in your heart left by your daughter," Weems said. "I’m hopeful Caitlyn‘s legacy will be one of hope and inspiration."

The Virginia Beach School District told News 3 they didn’t want us inside the school during this program because it’s such a sensitive topic.

The goal next year is to go to more high schools and middle schools.

So far, they've gone to Ocean Lakes and Kellam.

They plan to attend Princess Anne and Cox in two weeks.

Related: Virginia Beach School Board member wants to create Recovery High School for teens struggling with addiction