Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States faced an opioid overdose epidemic, and the Central Coast lost many loved ones and neighbors to the issue.
Let’s Make a Difference, an organization in Santa Maria, hosted an event to spread awareness about addiction and the issue of drug overdose with the local community. At the event, organizers displayed photos of people who lost their lives in the struggle with addiction.
Jaelyn Claude showed us a photo on the Memory Wall, “This is my son's father, Brandon he passed away a few months ago of an overdose.”
She is one of the event attendees at Pioneer Park for the Let’s Make a Difference Overdose Awareness Event. This is the third year hosting the event, however, last year it was virtual because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The first year was to commemorate the first year anniversary of my son's passing and turned into an event to bring awareness to overdose,” said Danielle Murillo.
Danielle is the founder and President of Let’s Make a Difference, and she launched the organization after losing her son. The event includes entertainment, food, face painting, and dancing.
She said, “That's why I'm doing this because I didn't know who to reach out to. And so I want to bring that awareness to the community and let these families know who they need to reach out to where to go to get help.”
The event raises money through donations and a silent auction. Representatives for Let’s Make a Difference said all of the proceeds go back to the community, to bring families the resources they need.
“It's really heartbreaking to see him on the wall, I never thought that I would be here today. Looking at him there and not in person,” Jaelyn told KSBY.
Rachel Lopez, the Vice President of Let’s Make a Difference, lost her husband to an overdose. “Because I want to help other people and other families that have been through what I've been through I wish that during the time when I lost him that, you know, I knew resources where I could go,” she said.
During the event and throughout the year, Let’s Make a Difference works with other local organizations to spread awareness and provide resources to people suffering from addiction, and their families. Some of the collaborators include The Pathway to Healing, the Good Samaritan Shelter, Council on Alcoholism & Drug Abuse.
“I know that this is a very taboo subject for a lot of people, but we need to break the stigma,” Murillo said,
“It’s a struggle watching him go through a change, a big change. But we have a great support system,” Jaelyn explained.