GENEVA – After six years of hosting the Chris Walk Night Out Against Substance Abuse, Vicki Foley knows the event's atmosphere might turn somber as people grieve for those they have lost.
But, she said, that's OK.
"Tears are healing," Foley said, noting she and others might cry with – and later uplift – them.
Foley, a Shaw Media employee, and her family started the Chris Walk after her son, Chris, died of a heroin overdose on July 15, 2007. He was 27.
"It's a loss you always feel," Foley said.
The Chris Walk – set for 4 to 8 p.m. July 26 – is a place where people can celebrate the lives of those lost with others who will understand their story, Foley said. It is also about education and awareness, she said, so that people will know where to turn if they ever need help with a loved one struggling with substance abuse.
Along with its new location of Gunnar Anderson Forest Preserve in Geneva – previous walks have been held in Aurora and Batavia – the event will feature a Zumba workout, a 5K run/walk, a silent auction, raffles, music and food.
Chris Walk also will award its annual community service award to Carrie Thomas, the drug court program coordinator. Speakers include Sheriff Pat Perez and U.S. Rep. Bill Foster, D-Naperville.
"I'm always happy to participate, especially with trying to bring awareness not just to the heroin epidemic in Kane County but all drug abuse," Perez said.
Foster said in a written statement that he met Foley last year when she participated in a discussion he hosted on combating heroin abuse. He was inspired by her family's story, he said.
"I am proud to have the opportunity to attend the Chris Walk and support the mission of combating heroin and substance abuse," Foster said.
"It is clear that we are facing an epidemic of heroin abuse, and we need innovative solutions to counteract this growing problem. Groups like the Chris Walk are working to fight back at the local level, but we need to do more at the federal level, and that’s something I’m fighting for."
Foley said her 10-year-old granddaughter, Caylee Foley, also will be in attendance. The girl – Chris' daughter – will sell jewelry she made, Foley said, and the profits will go toward Chris Walk.
"I'm real proud of her for that," Foley said.
Caylee knows what her father died from and also what he was like as a person, Foley said. Foley said she stresses to Caylee the importance of not putting anything harmful in her body, which could include too much candy or pills without verifying what they are for.
"Everybody should [do that] with their kids," Foley said.
Admission to the Chris Walk is free, but the 5K is $25, and the one-hour Zumba workout is $15. Register in advance at www.ChrisWalk.net or at the event.
Those unable to attend may donate through PayPal on the event website or by mailing a check to Chris Walk Against Substance Abuse, P.O. Box 424, Batavia, IL 60510. Donations are tax deductible.
If you go
What: Chris Walk Night Out Against Substance Abuse
When: 4 to 8 p.m. July 26
Where: Gunnar Anderson Forest Preserve at the Kane County Government Center, 719 S. Batavia Ave., Geneva