TULSA, Okla — Families and mothers gathered Sunday afternoon to hold a tribute to those who lost children to substance abuse.
The founder of Families Supporting Families, Diane Searle, started this Mother's Day tribute in 2018 to help other mothers during this tough holiday.
“Mother's day is a rough time for all of us. While other families are out there celebrating and having fun this is what we are dealing with. This is our reality," Searle said.
Searle said when she started this group in 2018 they had five families, now they have 109 families that are part of the group.
She said it's sad to see the group grow and so far this year they've had rapid growth.
“This year the whole dynamic has changed with fentanyl being on our streets. Since December we have lost 22, we’ve added 22 people to our group just since December that’s the largest number we’ve ever added in any of the years we’ve been doing this," Searle said.
She said about half of the deaths they've added can be attributed to fentanyl. They had a total of 74 crosses with names out displayed on Sunday.
“Pills are pressed to look like the real deal. They think they are getting the real thing having fun with their friends or experimenting and it’s one pill and they’re done," Searle said.
During the event, they read a prayer, honored their loved ones by reading the names of those lost, and offered support to each other with hugs & conversations.
It's the second year to include the photo and name of Kendra Watts.
Her mother, Theresa Watts, came to remember her daughter.
Watts arrived at the remembrance in good spirits despite the situation.
“I could spend all my days thinking about this is a horrible mothers day, I’ll never see her again, my life is not going to be the same, but I’m not sad about what I could possibly not have in the future. I’m excited by what I had in the past," Watts said.
Watts said her daughter was a musician, she was funny and a great person to be around when she wasn't using.
Now Watts' mission is to help others deal with their grief and have a more uplifting spirit during these tough days.
“I feel like our children, our family members loved us and they wouldn’t want us to sit at home with the windows closed today," Watts said.
For Searle, her mission is to support others experiencing the same type of loss through tributes like this one and to bring awareness to the crisis.
“Talk to your kids. I know a lot of parents will say my kid would never take a pill from his friend. That will never happen in my family, but you know what talk to some of these parents who have lost their 15 and 16-year-old kids," Searle said.
Searle suggests families who have a loved one abusing substances keep Narcan in all rooms at home and in all family vehicles.
She said Narcan is offered for free by organizations like 12 and 12 and Stop Harm on Tulsa Streets.
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