- Associated Press - Sunday, August 16, 2015

FRANKLIN, N.J. (AP) - Sometimes, through tragedy, opportunity presents itself.

That is exactly the case for a pair of Sussex County mothers who after losing their sons came together to plan a walk to “change the face of addiction,” with each having a different definition of what that means.

“I was thinking it meant for people to understand addiction. To understand it’s a disease. And I thought maybe if I stepped forward more people would be able to face addiction head on and say, ‘I’m an addict. I have a child who is an addict’ and move forward,” Elaine Tizzano, of Franklin, told the New Jersey Herald (https://bit.ly/1gLDKq3 ). Her son George died last year at the age of 27.

“To me it’s about changing the perception of the individual,” said Mary Burns, who lost her son, Eric, 22, in 2012. “A lot of people have bad names and use a lot of different works to describe addicts. To me, Eric was my child, my son. He was nothing else.”

The two mothers combined forces in February and began planning the walk with the goal to both raise awareness about the struggles of addiction and raise money for the Center for Prevention and Counseling in Newton.



“The money is going to help people who can’t afford treatment get it,” said Becky Carlson, executive director of the Center for Prevention and Counseling. “We find a lot of people who cannot afford treatment.”

More than 200 people met Saturday at the Fireman’s Pavilion in Franklin for the 1.5-mile walk and to honor friends and family members whom they lost after battles with addiction.

Burns said that public support for the walk has been tremendous.

“I think we hit a nerve,” she said. “Just about everyone you talk to knows someone who has issues struggling with addiction. So everyone has been really positive.”

Since 2000, Carlson said, the county has seen 200 overdose deaths.

Before the walk kicked off, state Sen. Steve Oroho, R-24th Dist., addressed the crowd, saying that the community needs to understand that addiction is a “disease and a sickness” that the county needs to come together to battle.

Saturday’s walk, which was the culmination of Tizzano and Burns’ hard work, was not the end for the two mothers. They have higher goals.

“My vision is for every county in our state to walk on the same day to support addiction in their communities,” Tizzano said. “That is what I would love. It could get to be national. It could. We just have to keep working and we are doing that.”

Reached by phone after the walk, Carlson estimated it raised close to $15,000 through donations and sponsorships from the community.

“The whole day was powerful,” Carlson said. “There are so many people that wanted to get involved, and it is amazing the support we received.”

Taking a minute to reflect on their work, and asked if their sons would be proud of two women’s accomplishments in their honor, both answered immediately.

“Yes.”

___

Information from: The New Jersey Herald (Newton, N.J.), https://www.njherald.com

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