By Connie Gyorr
In May 2016, my daughter Marisa passed away from an accidental drug overdose, leaving our family with very heavy hearts.
I never thought any of my children would feel the need to experiment with drugs. I’ve always talked to them about substance abuse, and constantly let them know they could talk to me about anything. It’s easy to think “something like this will never happen to us” and if it does, we end up trying to deny the situation or become embarrassed about the circumstances. The truth is, the drugs that are available today are extremely dangerous and easily accessible. Once addicted, people are left dependent on the drug and feeling helpless.
Marisa once told me she felt her purpose in life was to help people, and while I didn’t quite comprehend what she meant at the time, I now know she couldn’t have been more right. Marisa may not be here on Earth, but her memory will forever be eternal, and I’m hoping to live out her purpose through the Marisa’s Purpose: Faith, Hope and Love Charity. My hope in creating this charity is that we can educate and help as many people as possible struggling with drug or alcohol misuse in our local and surrounding communities. Our mission is to remove the stigma, start the conversation and educate anyone who will listen.
Each year in September we host a 5K race and an 11.5-mile bike race at Allerton Park and Retreat Center in Monticello, Illinois, to raise awareness and money. Funds from the races, which include a virtual option, are used to educate our youth and communities about dangers and misconceptions related to drugs, vaping and alcohol abuse.
Once a year, we host a speaker to talk to middle- and high-school students throughout Piatt County. The speaker tells their story, their struggle and their road to recovery. They also make themselves available to talk to students and staff after the presentation if there is a need.
We also host Narcan (Naloxone) training and give free Narcan to anyone who is in need.
Naloxone, known by common brand name Narcan, is a medication designed to reverse the harmful effects of an opioid overdose. Opioids include heroin, hydrocodone, morphine and oxycodone. If not treated immediately, an opioid overdose can be extremely dangerous to a person’s health.
While we try to focus on education for youth and communities, multiple times throughout the year we do have those in need reach out for help. We do our best to give these individuals the resources to find help and recovery.
In 2021, our family decided to create The Marisa’s Purpose Faith, Hope and Love – Addiction Awareness college scholarships. These $1,000 scholarships were awarded to two students who demonstrated a passion for raising awareness of drug and alcohol addiction in their communities.
Connie Gyorr is a farmer and Farm Bureau member in Illinois.