By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer
Marlborough – On May 11, 267 runners and walkers contributed to the successful second annual Remembering Our Angels 5K, beginning and ending at Marlborough Moose Family Center. It’s the major fundraiser for Team Sharing, Inc., a national nonprofit organization that offers support to families who have lost a child to substance use disorder.
Byron Gartrell of Hudson finished first overall in 18.29. First-place female was Lauren Nisbet-Spang of Marlborough in 23:00. New this year, the 5K was followed by several thought-provoking activities.
Team Sharing was founded by Cheryl Juaire of Marlborough, whose son Corey Merrill died of a heroin overdose at age 23 in 2011. He passed away when she and her husband Peter resided in Florida.
“We didn’t know anyone who had lost a child – let alone to addiction,” she relayed. “Until we moved back to Massachusetts in 2013, I suffered in my grief alone. Most parents who have lost a child know what that feeling is like.”
In 2015, she communicated on Facebook with other grieving mothers. They met for dinner and bonded immediately. Soon afterward, Juaire founded Team Sharing with seven members. Now, membership statewide is over 600. There are currently chapters in 11 states.
The members’ get-togethers range from weekend retreats to wakes. This past holiday season, the Massachusetts chapter hosted a party for 40 children who lost a parent. The organization has paid for funeral expenses.
“We not only do advocacy, we share life together,” Juaire explained. “We’ll forever grieve our children, but we don’t need to let that define us.”
In August 2018, Juaire organized a protest outside Purdue Pharma in Stamford, Conn. There, she met artist-activist Domenic Esposito of Westwood, who sculpted an approximately 10-foot, 800-pound opioid spoon and stationed it in front of the manufacturer’s headquarters.
Esposito brought his spoon to Team Sharing’s 5K as the first stop on a multiple-state tour. He invited Juaire to be the first of the fundraiser’s participants to sign names of lost children on the spoon. The Opioid Spoon Project tour will culminate in September with a display at Boston City Hall Plaza.
Also at last summer’s protest, Juaire met John Lally, president of the Connecticut-based nonprofit Today I Matter, Inc. The organization memorializes his son Timothy, who died of a heroin overdose at age 29 in 2016. Lally brought to the fundraiser 250 2- by 3-foot memorial posters depicting photos, names and hometowns.
“We want to put a face to the epidemic,” he noted. “Our mission is to reduce stigma and shame.”
Books were signed by authors Maureen Cavanaugh, “If You Love Me: A Mother’s Journey through Her Daughter’s Opioid Addiction”; and Ryan Hampton, “American Fix.”
A tent housed representatives from Addictions Referral Center, Hudson Youth Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition, Learn to Cope, Marlborough Alliance for Prevention, Massachusetts Organization for Addiction Recovery and SAFE Coalition. Let Your Spirit Take Wing donated proceeds from comfort cards’ sales to Team Sharing.
photos/Ed Karvoski Jr.