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Drug Overdose Memorial

There’s a new art exhibit at Millersville University opening Friday evening displaying sketches of people who died from drug overdoses.

The exhibit features the sketch of Shawn Sinisi from Altoona who lost his life in 2018 to addiction.

“It’s a beautiful project. I just feel like it really shows the person that was full of life and happiness,” said Shawn’s mom, Marianne.

These sketches show the person as a happy version of themselves before the addiction took over.

“You want to see them happy, and you want to remember that happiness. But, yeah, of course it’s bittersweet because you know that’s gone,” Marianne said.

Theresa Clower from North Carolina started drawing these sketches after losing her own son to addiction three years ago.

“During that period of time, following his death, I needed a way of making sense of that grief, and I started portraiture,” Clower said.

She began “INTO LIGHT,” a nonprofit with a mission of erasing the stigma associated with addiction.

“There’s a very good reason for graphite pencil work. It’s black, white, and grey. So, it’s a beautiful metaphor that we’re all made up of black and white and all the shades of grey in between,” Clower said.

“And you can’t define anyone by just their dark side, just like you can’t define anyone by just their light side.”

As the nation’s attention is focused on the COVID-19 pandemic, they’re reminding the public of the looming drug epidemic.

“We’re losing way too many people. Young people in particular. They’re dying every single day from this disease. With the pandemic, it’s even worse. So, simply by educating themselves about addiction, the language they use, and the attitudes they have, we can begin turning this around.”

Now, Marianne has another way her son will always be remembered.

“I guess this is our way of hoping that our child’s memory stays alive in a positive way, and that no other child has to go through what ours did,” Marianne said.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro was also scheduled to attend the exhibit opening Friday to speak about the opioid epidemic and prevention.

This Saturday is Black Balloon Drug Overdose Awareness Day”.

Throughout Saint Marys, Ridgway, Johnsonburg, and Emporium there are balloons hung up. Showing photos of victims who have died from drug overdoses.

Messengers Supporting Recovery a support group based in Elk county say the balloons help in their healing process and gives overdose victims a voice they no longer have themselves.

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