Candlelight vigil in Kensington honors victims of fatal drug overdoses

During the candlelight vigil, names of loved ones were read aloud through a megaphone. (Cory Sharber/WHYY)

During the candlelight vigil, names of loved ones were read aloud through a megaphone. (Cory Sharber/WHYY)

Community members gathered in Kensington Wednesday night to remember those who have died as a result of drug overdoses.

Nearly 100 people at McPherson Square lit candles and read the names of deceased loved ones to mark International Overdose Awareness Day.

While remembering those who’ve lost their lives, people hugged neighbors and loved ones in an attempt to heal the wounds still lingering from the ongoing opioid epidemic.

A memorial featuring the names of those who have passed from drug overdoses on display in McPherson Square on Aug. 31, 2022. (Cory Sharber/WHYY)
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In Pennsylvania, it’s estimated more than 5,200 people suffered accidental fatal overdoses last year.

Nicole Bixler is the President of Operation In My Backyard, an organization advocating for harm reduction which includes practices aiming to minimize negative health impacts associated with drug use.

Nicole Bixler is the President of Operation In My Backyard. She marched with other community members to the candlelight vigil held on Aug. 31, 2022. (Cory Sharber/WHYY)

She says the group has lost six loved ones within the past year and events like this could help break the stigmas associated with suffering from drug addiction.

“Events like this raise awareness, but they also bring like-minded people together, and maybe people will be curious and say, “Oh, you know, what is everybody walking down the street with signs for? What’s going on in the park? Everybody is touched by this and just getting them to feel a little bit more comfortable like they don’t have to shun the group of people that are using, I think is like the first start,” Bixler said.

Community members embraced one another following a candlelight vigil honoring the lives of drug overdose victims in Kensington on Aug. 31, 2022. (Cory Sharber/WHYY)
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Prevention Point Philadelphia Executive Director José Benitez says Kensington has long been ignored by the city, but seeing the amount of people turnout for the memorial shows how united the community is in combating the crisis.

“We all are in the struggle together, whatever that is,” Benitez said.  “Some people on the treatment side and have been in treatment for a while. Some people are struggling today, and sort of like bringing all of that together is powerful hope.”

Community members marched to the gathering in Kensington on Wednesday. (Cory Sharber/WHYY)

Unintentional drug overdoses have increased sharply since the pandemic started in Philadelphia, with fentanyl being the main drug involved.

A pop-up garden honoring those who have died from overdoses will be open in Center City until the end of September where a series of month-long awareness events will be held.

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