There are some people who have a sort of “It Factor” — who draw attention and make others around them feel instantly at ease. Sammi Henehan was one of those people.
According to her family, Samantha was “a bubbly, social butterfly that was loved by everybody.”
“She could walk into a room, and in a matter of two minutes, even if she walked in a stranger, inside of two to three minutes, she would have you sitting there laughing and joking and talking about personal, sometimes intimate details in your life because she was that approachable,” said her father Marty.
But in April of 2016, a tragedy struck: Sammi died of a heroin overdose. Her parents have now made it their mission to make the topic of addiction as approachable as their daughter was.
Sammi reportedly started struggling with drugs and alcohol as a teenager. Although she was sober when she began her 20s, Sammi relapsed last year, taking a fatal dose of heroin a few months shy of her 24th birthday.
“She was proud of who she was, and when we put it in the paper that she died of an accidental overdose, I knew it was something that she would want people to know,” said her mother Stacy. “A month later, I was going through her things and I found an obituary that she had wrote when she was in treatment, like a month prior to her passing away.”
It was almost word for word. The obituary Sammi wrote for herself while seeking treatment for her addiction was also the reassurance her parents needed to try to prevent this tragedy for another family.
They created the “Forever Sammi Foundation” with the goal of uniting addicted individuals and their families with treatment services.
“One of the things we’re trying to tell people and express to people is, stop whispering about it. It’s real. It happens,” said Marty.
The Henehans have decided to confront the heroin epidemic locally the way they feel Sammi would have — loudly.
On the anniversary of Sammi’s death, the Henehan’s joined families like theirs at the RailRiders home opener and released balloons in memory of people across the region who lost their lives to overdoses. They say tackling the heroin epidemic together is key.
Both Stacy and Marty admit to trying to hide Sammi’s addiction from the outside world. Their daughter had a budding career in banking, and they worried that the label of “addict” would’ve hurt her.
The Henehans say now what they really needed, above all else, was help.
“When we were in our own home, we only had our own home’s resources. We only had our own home’s guidance, understanding of this,” Marty explained.
It isn’t easy to stare down the disease that took their daughter, but the family is inspired by her spirit. In life, Sammi always rooted for the underdog.
“She would be proud,” her mother said. “She would.”