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Candlelight vigil honours those whose 'story wasn't over yet' (8 photos)

'They were gone too soon,' says organizer of sombre, poignant event held at ODAS Park

A poignant display at ODAS Park on Monday evening put into perspective the human toll of addiction and mental health issues.

As organizer Vanessa Sieger-Wilson pointed out, however, the number of tea lights placed on the bleachers in memory of lost loved ones “only scratches the surface” of the problem.

“The tea light is someone’s loved one, someone who lost their battle, someone who didn’t have the support of their community,” she said.

Over the course of two hours, about 75 people showed up to the Orillia Remembers candlelight vigil. That included folks from HxmeSweetHxme — friends and family of the late Jake Beers — and a group of Simcoe County mothers whose kids have died of overdose.

“People were holding space for themselves, for their own loss and others who were there,” Sieger-Wilson said.

The gathering featured moments of silence as well as casual conversation, and that’s where questions arose about how to address issues related to addiction and mental health and who should be responsible for taking action.

“Where do we need to look, and who’s looking away? It shouldn’t take us doing something like this. We shouldn’t have to put together things like this to be seen,” Sieger-Wilson said. “When is enough enough? That is a big question.”

On the Facebook event page for the vigil is a growing list of initials of those who have died. It includes their “forever ages” and the years of their deaths.

Sieger-Wilson said almost 100 names have been submitted to the list, with their ages ranging from 16 to 70. About 40 succumbed during the past two years.

A number of them were listed on displays set up in front of the bleachers. At the bottom of each page read, “Their story wasn’t over yet.”

“They were gone too soon,” Sieger-Wilson said.

The sombre scene at ODAS Park “should make people uncomfortable,” she said, “because when you’re uncomfortable, you ask questions, you grow, you learn.”

The community can help by doing just that, including urging elected officials at all levels to push for ways to tackle the problem.

“If you’re reading this and you have any way to make a difference, please look at what you can do,” she said.

In the meantime, Sieger-Wilson said, she will continue to organize vigils and information sessions to keep the issue front and centre.

“We will not be quiet.”

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Nathan Taylor

About the Author: Nathan Taylor

Nathan Taylor is the desk editor for Village Media's central news desk in Simcoe County.
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