Brandon McKennon

Submitted by: Debbie Michalik (Mom)
Born: 1983
Died: 2013
My Tribute: Gone too soon! I will always remember your sweet smile, and the loving person you were. Drugs took over your life, but it never took away your kind & loving heart. I miss you so very much! When you died, a piece of me died with you. My life is forever changed without you! I am trying to take peace in knowing, that you are no longer facing your demons, and that you are safe in the loving arms of our Lord! Rest in Peace my son! I love you!

Justin Olsen

Submitted by: Kit Olsen
Born: 1989
Died: 2014
My Tribute: My loving son Justin who I miss terribly but is still near and dear to my heart.

Raymond Zaorski

Submitted by: Karen Zaorski
Born: 1983
Died: 2010
My Tribute: Our beautiful first born child, Raymond, was smart, cheerful, funny, artistic, kind and loving. He was a delightful, curious child growing up. He always had a smile on his face. He enjoyed playing with his younger brother and time spent with his grandparents. He loved drawing and all things creative. Ray was a talented soccer player and also played basketball and lacrosse, skied, roller bladed and skate boarded. He played the trumpet in elementary and middle school. In high school, he learned to play the guitar. He was a big fan of all kinds of music, and had some really fun dance moves. Ray relished time spent with friends. He was an avid outdoorsman and concerned about preserving the environment. He experienced nature through hiking, rock climbing, canoeing and sailing. He was a member of Outdoor Leadership in high school and part of a boat building team. There he was able to learn new skills and flourish. As a young adult, he spent many weekends with friends hiking area trails. He was fortunate to have had the love of a beautiful girlfriend and fiancee whom he planned to spend the rest of his life with.

Ray grew up with some challenging learning disabilities and ADD. Learning came, but with much struggle. He expressed that he was different from others, even when he was in a specialized school environment which focused on his strengths. Like many of his peers, he experimented with alcohol, cigarettes and marijuana in his teens. Unlike many of his peers, he became addicted to substances. “Mom, don’t worry”, he’d say. “I know what I’m doing.” He thought he had control over his drinking and drug use, but of course he didn’t and it only got worse over time. He did the outpatient counseling route but never embraced that he was in trouble with substances…even when using substances caused problems for him. When we were unable to get adolescent treatment for him in CT, he went to Utah for 73 days for an outdoor wilderness therapy program, then to a 12 month transition program for young adults in New Mexico. Upon returning home, he had some successes, relapse, some struggles, and then more successes. When we received the phone call that no parent wants to get, we did not know that he was using drugs again. Our first born child was found dead from an accidental cocaine overdose by his fiancee. Our lives would forever be changed without our beloved Raymond.

This nightmare is one that is sadly being experienced by far too many families around this country. There is easy access to dangerous substances of every kind imaginable in every community in our cities, suburbs and rural areas. The immense infiltration of drugs in our society puts every young person at risk. It is time to stop talking about what we know is a problem out of control and start taking action if we are going to put a stop to the destruction of this generation of youth who would otherwise have promising futures. How many more families must be destroyed?

Today, my husband and I attend a monthly GRASP support group which helps with our healing. I volunteer for a grassroots organization called Wolcott Crossroads which was established as a result of too many deaths of young people in our town. I also am involved with a state-wide grassroots group called CT Turning to Youth and Families which focuses on initiating change so youth and young adults can access necessary treatment and recovery supports. It isn’t an easy thing for a parent whose lost a child to overdose to be out there with our story, but if it helps one young person or one family then it’s well worth the pain and effort. It’s important for those who can to bring awareness to the epidemic of drug use and the stigma associated with the disease of addiction and this nation-wide pediatric health crisis. Eyes must be opened to the fact the addiction doesn’t discriminate and it’s ending the lives of promising young people daily all across this nation.

Chris Spencer

Submitted by: Lynn Spencer
Born: 1987
Died: 2012
My Tribute: Chris was a beautiful person inside and out, he died of a disease he fought for 5 years, in the end the damage to his body from the drugs took his life. He will be forever missed by so many especially his sister and Mom.

“A butterfly lights beside us like a sunbeam and for a brief moment it’s glory and beauty belong to the world. But then it flies on again and though we wish it could have stayed, we feel so lucky to have seen it” Anonymous

Christopher Dinwiddie

Submitted by: Larae Koerber. – mother
Born: 1986
Died: 2011
My Tribute: Christopher was a wonderful child growing up with a compassionate heart. He grew into a wonderful man as well. He helped everyone who needed a hand, always made sure anyone homeless had something to eat. He was an amazing father who took to parenthood naturally. He was full of life and love. Everyday he is missed by all and is loved with all my heart.

Kristen Carol Coutu

Submitted by: Suzanne Coutu – Mom
Born: 1985
Died: 2014
My Tribute: Kristen was my only child, beautiful and wise. She was a “force to be reckoned with” and had a spirit that could fill a room. She made me laugh like no one could and never failed to tell me how much she loved me. We were bonded in ways most parents and kids don’t get to experience. But, as she wrote in a letter, ” she met her match, and it was heroin. ” it stole my beloved and special child from me. I will love and miss her every second of every day!

Billy Wattles

Submitted by: Diane Goldstein
Born: 1960
Died: 2007
My Tribute: Being My Brother’s Keeper

This link will take you to a story about my brother and my journey to make our system better so we don’t lose anymore of our loved ones. He taught me many things and I miss him everyday.

Salvatore Marchese

Submitted by: Patty DiRenzo
Born: 1984
Died: 2010
My Tribute: Sal was born on April 11, 1984, two months premature. As my sister-in-law stated after his passing “he came into this world early and left early.” Sal was an absolute beautiful child with a heart of gold. Sal was truly an old soul.” He was kind and sweet and cared so much about everyone. If you met Sal once, you were his friend forever. These next few words are borrowed from Sal’s brother Vincent. “There were so many layers to Sal. At his very core, he was fiercely loyal, loving, sensitive, and moral. To coax a real smile from Sal was the greatest victory, but how beautiful it was!! Sal touched so many people during his life. Anybody who had met Sal knew that you couldn’t do anything but love him”.
Sal struggled with addiction through his high school years – he was embarrassed of his disease. From the time he was 18 years old he tried to get treatment and was in and out of rehab facilities never getting the proper treatment because he was never afforded any more than 11 days at a time – We always struggled with insurance trying to get approvals, never enough funding and/or beds to take him. He wanted help desperately but sadly never received the help he needed and deserved. In June of 2010 he was, for the first time approved under state funding for treatment. We were all so hopeful and happy because this was he first time he was able to get approved and we all believed this was a gift and Sal was on the road to recovery. 11 days later, we received a call that his funding had ran out and he was being released – his release papers were clearly marked “high risk for relapse” – but they still released him. We called every treatment center in the area to get him into another place, no one would take him – we lost Sal on September 23, 2010 from an accidental overdose. Sal was not alone when he died, but the person using with him left him alone to die -without calling for help – my son was left to die. As mentioned earlier, to get a smile out of Sal was not easy – but when he did smile it was beautiful and the one thing that made him smile was his son – Salvatore. Seeing him look at his son with pride in his eyes was amazing. His son was 18 months old when Sal passed. I miss everything about Sal. He had a quiet, beautiful presence, he was thoughtful and kind. Sal never went to bed without coming into my room to say good night and tell me that he loved me. I miss him popping his head in my bedroom to say I love you – good night. I just miss him being him and giving me his quirky smile – it was truly priceless. Sal and his sister Blake would sit on the back deck just about every night and talk – I miss looking out the back door and seeing them sitting together talking. Sal is forever missed and loved.

Margo Mae Elizabeth Schwartz (Squirlenn)

Submitted by: Dana Peterson ( Mom )
Born: 1995
Died: 2014
My Tribute: Margo was my only daughter and passed on June 4th 2014.
She was creative, fiercely independent, compassionate and generous. She was my precious baby girl.
I , and her father , older brother and so many of her friends and extended family will miss her so much.
Margo had just finished her last class for high school and passed with a 97 ! She worked so hard for that A .
A light has gone out inside me Margo and I will never be the same without you for the rest of my time here.
We don’t know yet what actually put you over the edge but we know it was an accident and you wanted to live !
She was making plans for college in the Fall and had everything to live for.
I miss you desperately Margo and I still can’t believe it . I look for you in all the places we went and then I remember . So many tears …..
Fly on, Little Wing .

Derek E. Brown

Submitted by: Kim Brown – Derek’s Mom
Born: 1992
Died: 2014
My Tribute: Derek was only 22 years young when he heroin overdosed on June 13th of this year. Derek was an educated, kindhearted, fun loving, adventurous young man with a great sense of humor and a love for life.

Derek’s heroin addiction was over the last 2 years, and a longer history for alcohol and some other drugs. After a motorcycle accident in 2012, he would first turn to pills and later it would escalate to his drug of choice.

Rehabs, courts, correctional treatment facilities all became a way of life for our family. The struggles and battles of one facility to the next and then relapse after relapse was just our new normal. Our lives were inside out and outside in and we unfortunately were always waiting for the next time.

Our lives will never be the same without him to make us laugh, to make a funny face at the camera, to do some silly thing that you weren’t expecting, to teach us to kind, and love one another. His dimpled grin and shining personality will be missed here, but I know that he is now at peace and no longer struggling.

I love you to the moon & back and miss you even more than that!