The University of New Hampshire (UNH) club Changing Lives for Those Who Changed Ours hosted an open mic event called “The Impact of Addiction on Our Local Communities” on Saturday, Dec. 1 in the Memorial Union Building Entertainment Center.
President Riley Dionne, a sophomore social work major, and vice president Lauren Welch, a junior health management and policy major, founded the club last spring originally as “Change Lives for Lilli” following the death of their classmate and friend, Lilli Pease.
“Lilli is why we started this club. She had just turned 18 when she overdosed. It’s just so sad. We lost four classmates in less than four months,” Dionne said.
Dionne and Welch filled the room with photographs of their classmates, meaningful notes and tea lights.
“This open mic will be a place where people can come who have been affected or could even be in active using and they can read a poem, play a song, or talk about their struggles. And we want people to be educated. We want people to know about the Good Samaritan Law. Lots of people don’t even know what it is and it could have saved Lilli’s life,” Dionne says.
The New Hampshire Good Samaritan Law provides legal protection for those who believe someone is in real danger of overdosing. It was created to dispel fear of being
arrested for drug consumption so the person in danger can receive the help they need.
The open mic featured guest speaker Charles “Chucky” Rosa. Rosa runs Chucky’s Fight, a charity focused on raising money to help provide funds for people entering rehab.
Rosa, off the cuff, opened with “I know everyone has a story and it’s not like I’m anything special. But something happened to me and I want to tell you all about it today because I know my story isn’t too different than what lots of people deal with every day.” Rosa lost his two sons to drug overdoses and the tragedy has driven him to speak publicly about
what he wished he could have done differently when it comes to parental intervention and enabling.
Following Rosa, multiple UNH students and community members took the stage, singing music and sharing stories about their own personal experiences.
The open mic was the Changing Lives for Those Who Changed Ours’ first big event and they hoped that not only would attendees learn more about the opioid crisis, but would also get the word out to increase campus involvement in the club in hopes of creating a bigger impact across the community for those who need help.
Tables filled with snacks and drinks lined the walls, as people could grab some food on their way out as well as club flyers.
“We want to make resources accessible for everyone. We are handing out fliers and stapled to the back of the flier is a bunch of resources if someone needs help. Someone can take those without feeling like anyone is judging them, and that’s important,” Dionne says.
Changing Lives for Those Who Changed Ours hopes is planning on a series of future events featuring different guest speakers.