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‘Remembering loved ones’: Tree of hope for overdose awareness in Kelowna, B.C.

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Now that we’re into December, Christmas trees will soon be seen all over Kelowna, B.C.

Some of those trees will be doing more than spreading holiday cheer. They will also be raising awareness on overdose and drug addictions.

Helen Jennens was one of the people placing a ball on a special Christmas tree at Kelowna General Hospital. The ball had a picture of her sons whom she lost to a drug overdose.

And she’s not the only one remembering loved ones.

“Someone has added both their mother and their brother to the tree. So people really recognize what it’s for and they honour their loved ones. One of the things we do is we try to keep our children’s names alive,” said Helen Jennens, leadership membership of Moms Stop The Harm.

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Moms Stop the Harm put up the tree of hope, to raise awareness about injuries and deaths related to drug use.

“In a hospital, we get a lot of people coming and going that are very aware of the opioid crisis and are visiting people who are struggling with substance use,” said Jennens.

“Anybody walking through this lobby if they’ve lost someone, a loved one, to substance harm can add a ball or wooden tags.”

Trees of hope will also be set up at homeless shelters across Kelowna. They will feature pictures of loved ones, messages to those that have passed away and information on how community support groups can help.

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The Christmas trees are just one part of the efforts being made to shed a light on substance abuse.

“We need to end the stigma, addiction is a disease and people need to understand that. The best thing we can do is bring it more to the community to talk to the community and talk to our youth,” said Pam Turgeon.

Pam Turgeon also lost her son to an overdose and says education surrounding drug addiction needs to begin at a younger age.

That has inspired her to host a Parade with a Purpose. The parade will be a fundraiser for youth recovery centres across Kelowna.

“I believe that if we help the youth younger that maybe we can help with their addiction later and stop it completely,” Turgeon said.

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Read more: Kelowna, B.C. outreach group offering delivery of harm reduction kits

The parade will take place on Saturday, Dec. 3 in Kettle Valley at 6 p.m.

Turgeon says they are hoping to reach their $50,000 goal and have already raised over $30,000.