Mourners remember loved ones lost to addiction at vigil

The number of overdose-related deaths increased 8 percent between 2016 and 2017. Photo by Gessler Santos-Lopez

Chip Lauterbach, Contributing Writer

Local recovery community organizations held a candlelight vigil March 22 for people who have died from drug overdoses and other addiction-related complications.

About 200 recovery advocates gathered in the chapel at the Grace & Holy Trinity Episcopal Church for the vigil.

The event was coordinated by The Wellness Resource Center at VCU — also known as The Well — and local recovery organizations, including the McShin Foundation, The Healing Place and True Recovery RVA.

“Through our experiences as people in recovery, we have lost so many at such a young age,” said Tom Bannard, program coordinator for The Well’s Rams in Recovery program. “And we have not had many spaces to grieve them.”

While research and data is still being collected for 2018, opioid deaths in Virginia have risen sharply over the past decade. More than 1,200 deaths related to overdose were recorded in 2017, an almost 8 percent jump from the year before, according to the Virginia Department of Health.  

“We partnered with about 20 other organizations to plan this remembrance event, to honor those we have lost to addiction,” said Alden Gregory, director of development for the McShin Foundation. “There has been a lot of loss in the community and it hasn’t slowed down. And it is important that we take the time to show the impact that this has on the greater community.”

The vigil included several speakers, music and a moment of remembrance when participants stepped to the front of the service and spoke briefly about those they lost.

“I came here tonight because I wanted to support my brothers and sisters in this fight against the disease of addiction,” said Timothy Covington, a member of one of the local recovery centers. “I believe that we should hold events like this more often. Because a lot of people fall through the cracks because they just don’t know what’s going on, and that there are people who have walked in their shoes and can help them because they understand the pain they are going through.”

For more information on recovery resources, visit The Well at 815 S. Cathedral Place. The Well can be reached via email at or by phone at 804-828-9355.

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