HAMPTON, Va. - The Hampton Roads Convention Center will turn purple Friday night in honor of lives lost to overdose.
August 31 is International Overdose Awareness Day, a day dedicated to breaking the stigma of addiction and supporting those who are fighting to break free.
Faith Recovery, former Youth Challenge, a non-profit addiction treatment facility in Newport News usually holds a vigil inside its building to commemorate the day and lives lost to addiction.
This year, organizers are moving the vigil to outside the convention center due to COVID-19. The hope is to also bring more awareness about an issue that's only gotten worse during the pandemic.
"We were losing people that we knew that were sober for a while. We had people in the program that had lost people that they loved," said Mandi Sabo, Development Director for Faith Recovery.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 93,000 people died of an overdose in the U.S. in 2020; the most ever in a single year. It's believed the isolation of the pandemic made it difficult for those in recovery to get the crucial support they need.
Friday's vigil is a chance to remember people, Sabo says, instead of the addiction that took their lives.
"They're not just their struggles. They're more than that. They were a person and we're not just sad that they're dead. We're happy that they lived," she said.
The vigil is set for 6:30 p.m. next to the LOVE sign outside the Hampton Roads Convention Center. It will include a service, the sharing of memories from loved ones and will see the building turned purple, the color of Overdose Awareness Day.
On the south side, April Brooks says she will take Overdose Awareness Day to continue getting ready for her annual event in honor of her brother Will West; the StrongWILL 5k run/walk in Suffolk.
"My husband and I were the ones that found him. He was living with us at the time," she recalled.
West died in April of 2016. By the end of the year, Brooks had already founded a non-profit in his name.
StrongWILL raises awareness about addiction and has provided tens of thousands of dollars in support of people working toward recovery.
"At least for me, part of that grieving process was to kind of make a difference. To honor his name," Brooks told News 3.
The annual run/walk event is a major fundraiser for the organization. This year's is set for October 16 and spaces are still available.
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