ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Families and friends of people who died from addiction and overdose lit candles in their memory on Saturday night.
At Academy Park in Albany, the lawn was decorated with images of people who were being remembered. Community speakers included Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple and Congressman Paul Tonko.
Leon Shelhamer lost his fiancé, Julie, to addiction to 2016. He spoke in her memory. He, too, was an addict who is now in recovery.
When News10 asked Shelhamer why Saturday’s vigil is important, he said, “I can’t get Julie back, but if someone else doesn’t have to die, that would help.”
Shelhamer sought treatment for his addiction, but he said it came with fear of judgment.
“There is a stigma attached to addiction. It’s just not easy to open your mouth in the first place,” he told News10, “to always be worrying in the back of your mind about judgment.”
But he found the right help with GRASP, a group that helps people grieving the loss of a loved one to addiction. That group, along with Second Chance Opportunities, a nonprofit that supports recovering addicts, hosted the vigil.