Mothers Gather To Rally Support For Families Of Overdose Victims

Sunday, May 8th 2022, 10:35 pm

TULSA, Oklahoma -

A Mother's Day Rally honors loved ones who died from drug overdoses while helping moms get through the holiday with a broken heart.

The group 'Families Supporting Families' now has 109 families; 22 of them have joined since December.

Related Story: Tulsa Group Hosts Mother's Day Rally To Support Families Of Overdose Victims

"The last thing he said, I love you mom," said Rebekah Brown.

Rebekah Brown would give anything to hear her son Cole say 'I love you mom' one more time.

"Don't do drugs. None. Your future is way more important than any drug you can do," said Brown.

This is her first Mother's Day without Cole.

"I actually have dreaded today. I have two other kids and it's very hard because I have to be there for them and put that smile on but really, inside, like I miss the one that's not here. Sorry. It's hard," said Brown.

Brown said it's a reminder that drugs robbed her of many memories and moments.

Cole graduated high school just before dying of a drug overdose in 2021.

"He took one Percocet. He thought it was a Percocet. It was actually Fentanyl. There was enough in it to kill six grown men and he just never woke up the next day," said Brown. "Nothing is safe anymore."

She said Cole struggled with mental health from his dad passing when Cole was 12, but said he was sweet, hardworking, and a star trap shooter.

"You would've never guessed that, you know, he had tried drugs. He didn't even look like he was that kind of kid," said Brown.

Brown said no one is immune.

"I'm sure that was Cole's thought. 'It ain't gonna happen to me,' but it will," said Brown. "He had so much life left to live. It just really sucks as a parent to have that taken from him and from us."

She said no matter what is happening with your child, it's important to show them love and give them grace.

The names of those lost to drug overdoses are written on crosses and printed on posters. One of the moms prayed over the group before reading all 109 names aloud.

Organizers said the rally is also about raising awareness, and they hope it causes people who drove by La Fortune Park to pause, lean in, and learn.

"You can talk to people about it, or you know even anybody in my family, but they don't really know what it's like to lose a child. They say, 'Oh I can't imagine,' but it's nice to have a group that can imagine," said Clemandot.

The group 'Families Supporting Families' makes room for new faces every year.

"My other kids and grandkids are what prevents me from just curling up in a ball," said Stacey Clemandot.

Stacey Clemandot said her 21-year-old son Ryder checked into a drug rehab facility in 2016.

"He died the first night he was there. They gave him [something] when they didn't need to, and he already had a lot of benzos in his system from his travel and they never once checked him for his medical detox. They left him through the night, and he passed away," said Clemandot.

Clemandot sued the facility.

"We sued them not for money or greed. They were giving no answers and it just felt really heartless and just wouldn't tell us what was going on and kept putting me off and so the only way to get answers was through our lawyer, who gave me every answer I needed, yet we settled," said Clemandot. "I was able to sit across the table from everyone that worked at that facility at the time that Ryder passed away and had to answer to what they did or didn't do wrong."

Clemandot said society needs to destigmatize addiction and be more proactive about treatment.

"When we settled, they said Ryder's life wasn't worth as much as anyone else because he was an addict," said Clemandot.

She said Ryder was funny, had lots of friends, and loved his family.

"A momma's boy," said Clemandot.

However, he struggled with anxiety, and at 14, a kid from school noticed.

"He would bring tabs from his parents medicine cabinet at home, gave some to Ryder, and said, 'see if this helps you feel better,' and from there it's a spiral," said Clemandot.

Ryder had his liver tested months before he died.

"All these different anxiety medications, his liver, they say, was just chewing them up and spitting them out," said Clemandot

Clemandot said schools need to step up and parents need to keep a watchful eye before it's too late.

"I still feel like it's my fault. I wish I would've, or you know, or I should've noticed," said Clemandot. "Parents, pay attention and don't think, 'it's not my child,' and do something about it and don't wait and don't always believe your kids."

The Oklahoma State Department of Health says there are more than 700 unintentional poisoning deaths in Oklahoma each year and six out of ten involve at least one prescription drug.