• John McGary, Woodford Sun News Editor

Survivors gather to remember

NANCY BLACKFORD spoke about the loss of her son, Larry Blackford Jr., last Christmas Day – and her hopes for the future at RAW’s annual “We Remember You” gathering Sunday at Big Spring Park. (Photo by John McGary)

A “MEMORIAL WALL” with photos of people who died from drug overdoses was on display at RAW’S 5th annual Remembrance ceremony Sunday, Aug. 12, at Big Spring Park. Other photos were attached to three strands of Christmas lights above the board. (Photo by John McGary)

Members of Raising Awareness Woodford County (RAW) and others battling the opioid crisis met Sunday at Big Spring Park to share memories of loved ones – and plans to save others.

The group’s “We Remember You” annual gathering began five years ago as “Remembering Rachel,” named for Rachel Hood, a mother of six who died from an overdose Aug. 12, 2013. Her photo was one of dozens taped to a large piece of cardboard and three rows of Christmas lights above it.

“Most of those pictures that are hanging back there are people that we personally knew and loved dearly, and we don’t want to add any more,” RAW President Angie Stewart told the crowd. “There are people here today that not so long ago, I thought would be on that wall.”

Stewart said most everyone there had lost a loved one to opioids, while the lives of many others, including several residents of The Nile addiction and recovery center, have also been touched by the crisis.

People munched on grilled hamburgers and hotdogs while Stewart, Versailles Mayor Brian Traugott, incoming Assistant Police Chief Rob Young, 14th Circuit Judge Brian Privett and others spoke. One of them was Nancy Blackford, whose son, Larry Blackford Jr., was found dead of an overdose last Christmas Day. He was 30 years old.

She said that day was the worst of her life, but she believed groups like RAW are helping addicts seek help instead of hiding in shame.

“He once told me that he didn’t take drugs just to get high… but to feel normal. And on Christmas Day, I believe he just wanted to be normal,” Blackford said.

She said Woodford County needs a rehabilitation or detoxification center that ordinary people can afford, and where they can be treated with class and dignity.

“So my hope is that we become a force and turn this thing around so that no other parent experiences a day like I did,” Blackford said. “In closing, I just want to say that love is the most powerful force on earth. And God is love. God gives us free will. Love doesn’t hold you in bondage – the drug does. Drugs take away the free will, and it’s up to us here to help them get that free will back.”

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