Kent County

No shame in addiction: Light a candle to spread hope

BYRON TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — A grieving mom hopes others will join her in lighting candles in a Byron Center park Saturday to support West Michigan's fight against addiction and the stigma surrounding it.

“This is the first time this has ever been in Grand Rapids,” said organizer Theresa Adkison of the Lights of Hope event.

She and five other West Michigan moms are organizing the vigil.

“I want there to be so many people there, and I want there to be so much candlelight that it just lights up the park.”

A national organization called The Addict’s Mom, or TAM, started the candle lighting vigil several years ago. Moms now stage them in cities across the country every September, which is National Recovery Month.

In West Michigan, Lights of Hope will take place Saturday, Sept. 15 from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Douglas Walker Park, located 1195 84th Street SW in Byron Center. The event will feature several speakers, as well as resources like agencies that help people on their recovery journeys.

The candle lighting portion will begin around 7:30 p.m.

Organizers will have candles on hand, but participants who want to sit should bring their own lawn chairs.

The candles are white, red and black; you choose the color based on who you’re honoring, supporting or remembering.  

A red candle symbolizes active addiction, a white candle means the person is in recovery, and a black candle signifies that the individual you’re honoring died from addiction.  

Adkison will be holding a black candle for her son, Derek Kardos. He was 32 years old when he died from an overdose in January 2018.

Toxicology tests showed Kardos had crack and fentanyl-laced heroin in his system at the time of his death.

Adkison lives in Cascade, but her son was living in Philadelphia at the time of his death.

“I don’t want Derek’s death to just be another statistic,” explained Adkison.

“I want to honor him and his memory, to help people that are like him. I think that’s what keeps me going right now. It helps me get through the day, if I know I’m helping someone that is like Derek… He was an awesome man, and he was kind, caring and generous and he loved unconditionally,” she added.

In addition to supporting and honoring those whose lives have been shattered by addiction, Lights of Hope pushes to remove the stigma surrounding addiction, urging people to “share without shame,” remember that recovery is possible and never lose hope.


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