Fort Myers vigil held for loved ones, victims of the opioid crisis

The opioid epidemic is widespread across the entire country. As it continues to add darkness to the lives of individuals and families, local community members gathered to shine light on those who have struggled and lost their lives because of it.

Friends and families gathered for a vigil in downtown Fort Myers Monday to remember loved ones who have fallen victim to the opioid crisis.

Pictures of individuals on a wall with their names written in chalk on pavement were signs of the local impact the prescription drug epidemic has right here in Southwest Florida.

Rita Calabretta attended the vigil to write her son’s name on a wall with chalk. Her son, Joseph, lost his life just two weeks ago.

”I would never of imagined I would be doing this for my son,” Calabretta said. “I just look at the picture up there and it tears my heart out.”

Katie Whalen-Polewski’s son, Derrek has his picture on the wall with others who fell victim to the opioid crisis.

“Derrek was only 26,” Whalen-Polewski said. “He had hopes; he had dreams; he had a whole life ahead of him; and he was taken too soon over a horrible epidemic.”

Guest speaker State Attorney Amira Fox spoke at the vigil, promising a crackdown on the epidemic.

”We will be making a five-county effort to use very sophisticated techniques such as wiretapping to go after people who are pedaling poison in our community,” Fox said.

This serves as a mission of the utmost importance to the families who attended.

“It’s heartbreaking to watch somebody that has so many huge hopes and dreams struggle every day,” Whalen-Polewski said. “And then it’s devastating to get that phone call that they’ve lost the battle.”

There is help available to anyone struggling with opioid addiction, and affected families say there is hope in recovery.

The United Way of Lee, Hendry, Glades and Okeechobee Counties has local resources to give help to those in need. The phone number for Lee County is 239-433-3900. For more information visit the United Way website.

Reporter:Gina Tomlinson
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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