NORTH RIDGEVILLE — When Serena Johnson and other members of the Lorain County Walkers for Wellness group tried to spark interest in a walk to draw attention to the deadly epidemic of heroin addiction last year, they were sorely disappointed.
“We tried a walk last year in Vermilion, and nobody showed up,” Johnson said. “Even if two people showed up, we walk. I sat in my car waiting for a half-hour and we didn’t get anyone. It was very frustrating and sad.”
Johnson moved back to North Ridgeville nearly two years ago after living elsewhere with her children, including a son battling drug addiction, for 10 years.
She questioned whether she was wasting her time trying to generate interest in walks to raise awareness over the spreading scourge of drug addiction.
But she decided to try again once walking weather returned this year. A walk two weeks ago drew about 20 people in Vermilion.
This Sunday’s walk, to start at 2 p.m. at North Ridgeville’s South Central Park, already has almost 120 people pledging via Facebook postings to join the effort.
“This may reach well over 200 by the time we get to Sunday as most people don’t come alone,” Johnson said. “I had no idea this would grow to enormous proportions so quickly.’’
The niece of City Councilwoman Roseanne Johnson, Serena Johnson is elated.
Her son, Jacob, 20, is a heroin user whose battles with the deadly drug have seen him nearly lose his life and serve jail time for robberies committed to get money to buy drugs.
Jacob will be clean for six months come the middle of August.
“It doesn’t go away,” Serena Johnson said. “This is something they battle the rest of their lives.”
His mother has custody of Jacob’s son, Mason, who turns 2 in October.
“We take it a day at a time,” she said. “We hope this is a temporary situation.”
But Johnson knows there are no sure bets.
“One person can tell you they just buried a niece or son or a brother, and the next person tells you they have been clean for six or 10 years. That gives you hope and makes you smile,” she said. “When someone puts a needle in their arm they don’t care, but when they wake up, they still want to live.”
Just as a walk to draw attention to a problem is taken a step at a time, so too was Johnson’s schooling about her son’s struggle.
“I didn’t know about heroin or what to do about it,” Johnson said.
She began talking with others and reading medical and drug education literature.
Johnson’s quest led her to www.stopheroin.org, a website begun by the family of Nicky Vigna, a Missouri woman whose mother began a series of walks after her daughter’s death from heroin in 2013 at age 20.
Sunday’s walk will begin at the park and make its way onto state Route 83, go north to Center Ridge Road, east to Root Road, west to Bainbridge Road, and back to the park.
Johnson is grateful for the treatment her son will receive at the Lorain Medina Community Based Correctional Facility.
“I know I can’t save him, but I tell him every day I love him,” Johnson said.
To learn more, visit www.stopheroin.org or Walking for Wellness on Facebook.
Contact Steve Fogarty at 329-7146 or firstname.lastname@example.org.