ADDISON – It’s been a little more than two years since the Miceli family lost their son and brother Louie to a heroin overdose, and their fight against the drug that took his life is still going strong.
The nonprofit the family started in honor of Louie Theodore Miceli – the Addison-based LTM Heroin Awareness and Support Foundation – hosted its second annual Walk-a-Thon and Fun Run on Aug. 9, raising an estimated $7,000 to continue the organization’s work in educating young adults about the dangers of heroin.
“It’s really just bringing awareness specifically to heroin and specifically to the ramifications of using this drug,” said Louie’s sister, Kristen Gutierrez, who regularly presents on behalf of the foundation at schools, churches and other sites around the Chicago area.
The LTM Heroin Awareness and Support Foundation has spoken to more than 30,000 young people since it started in October 2012, just a few months after Louie died at 24 years old.
The main goal of the organization is to educate teenagers about the dangers of heroin and the repercussions of using it before they end up in a situation where they are tempted to try it, Gutierrez said.
So far, the foundation has received positive feedback from those who have listened to their presentation.
“It’s been really impactful and successful,” Gutierrez said.
Part of the presentation includes a testimony from a recovering heroin addict, who speaks to the students.
There are only three outcomes that can come from experimenting with heroin, Gutierrez said: committing to recovery, going to prison or dying of an overdose.
Those who have died of overdoses were acknowledged at the Walk-a-Thon and Fun Run in Addison through a traveling tombstones display from the Stop Overdose Illinois awareness campaign.
The 100 tombstones represent the 100 people who die from drug overdoses every day across the United States.
“It is an issue all over the country,” said Cassandra Wingert, director of Wake the Nation in Crystal Lake, an advocacy organization with similar goals to the LTM Heroin Awareness and Support Foundation.
The display is traveling around the Chicago area before arriving Aug. 30 in Elk Grove Village for an Overdose Awareness Gathering and Vigil, co-organized by Wingert.
She hopes the display will help to remove some of the hesitation in talking about drug use and addiction from people who believe it’s not happening where they live.
“Commonly, people ignore this subject because there’s such a stigma attached to it,” Wingert said.
Those who attended the LTM Heroin Awareness and Support Foundation’s fundraiser walked past the tombstones as they moved from Addison Trail High School, where the opening ceremony took place, to the old Driscoll Catholic High School football field, where balloons were released in memory of Louie, who played football there during his high school career.
The display then traveled to the home of Louie’s parents, Felicia and Lou Miceli.
Although the family can’t bring Louie back, spreading the word about the dangers of heroin has helped them to remember the righteous and courageous person he was and keep his spirit alive, Gutierrez said.
“The work and the honor that we bring him help the healing process,” she said.
How to help
Learn more about the LTM Heroin Awareness and Support Foundation at ltmfoundation.org.