Marty Henehan Sr. stood at the podium before hundreds of people and fought back tears.
“She was 5-foot-1, weighed 110 pounds, but would not hesitate to tell you her thoughts and her beliefs and stand firm by them,” he said, remembering his daughter Sammi Henehan, who died from an overdose earlier this year. “She was a firecracker.”
On Sunday, Mr. Henehan and his wife, Stacy Schmidt-Henehan, of Scranton publicly launched the Forever Sammi Foundation at an addiction awareness rally at Lackawanna County Courthouse Square.
When their 23-year-old daughter lost her promising life in April after a long battle with heroin, the couple wanted to channel that anguish into something positive. The foundation aims to help bring the raging opioid epidemic out of the shadows and into public discourse, and to raise money for those struggling to stitch their lives back together after destructive bouts with addiction.
Mr. Henehan, who told the crowd he was an addict in recovery, started the foundation with his wife and a friend, Sean Bingham, a former heroin addict who has been sober six years after a long battle with the drug that resulted in 17 — yes, 17 — overdoses.
“I asked for help,” Mr. Henehan told the crowd, many wearing fluorescent T-shirts reading “Forever Sammi.” “It’s OK to ask for help.”
Mr. Bingham, 47, of Scranton, estimated the rally raised $10,000 for the foundation.
Lackawanna County President Judge Michael Barrasse, who oversees the county’s addiction treatment courts, saluted the courage of the Henehan family to publicly engage such a devastating issue.
“It kills people,” the judge said of addiction. “It kills family members. It doesn’t kill the people under the bridges. It doesn’t kill the people we don’t know. It kills the people in our own families.”
He called on the crowd to urge more funding for treatment programs from elected officials.
“We need to make sure there is more money in the criminal justice system to treat the problem, not just incarcerate,” he said. “We have to make that change.”
Other speakers on Sunday included District Attorney Shane Scanlon, Commissioner Laureen Cummings and Detective John Munley, himself a recovering alcoholic who touted the power of treatment programs. All three are members of the county’s drug task force, which aims to educate the public about the dangers of abusing drugs like heroin and other opioids like prescription painkillers.
The rally also included booths from regional addiction treatment centers, as well as representatives from support groups, local law enforcement and the court system, former drug and alcohol abusers and family members, on hand to talk to guests about sobriety and recovery.
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