Ginger Katz is Taking Action from Norwalk, USA w. husband Larry !

Larry and Ginger Katz have several gardens at their Norwalk home.

One is dedicated to Ian James Eaccarino.

Norwalker Ginger Katz, with the support of her husband Larry, wants to raise an army. It is her goal — her wish — to see a battalion of mothers shout out in one singular voice that they will not be silent about the ravages of drug addiction.

“Could you imagine if all of the moms who lost a child to addiction got together, how powerful that would be?” Ginger says on her patio on a warm summer Sunday. A few feet away, Larry listens to his wife talk about their family’s tragedy and the organization born from her tears: the Courage to Speak Foundation. She says, “Wouldn’t that be incredible? There are a lot of mothers out there who have been through this, and they’re fighting mad.”

Through the foundation, Ginger has spoken to hundreds of thousands of teens about addiction. She has a book, “;Sunny’s Story,” and an educational program entering school curriculums around the country. Grants and donations fund an outreach program spanning 22 states and growing. Ginger even has a regiment of 79 instructors for Courage to Speak – Courageous Parenting 101 courses.

All of it is geared toward the goal of preventing another family from going through what she went through in September 1996. That was when her son, Larry’s stepson, Ian James Eaccarino, used heroine for the last time. He died that night.

They heard me screaming for help two streets over,” Ginger says of finding her son dead from a drug overdose. Decades and thousands of talks later, she still pauses at the memory. “It’s not a feeling that ever really fully goes away,” she says, a slight waver breaking through her defiance.

The Katz backyard is filled with gardens, and around the corner from the patio is one that Ginger calls Ian’s garden. The second-story window that overlooks it was Ian’s room.

Doctor’s encouraged Ginger and Larry to tell people that Ian suffered an aneurysm or a heart attack — anything but the truth. “That’s just how it was. People didn’t talk about addiction,” Larry says.

That didn’t sit well with Ginger. “I never lied about Ian in life, I wasn’t going to start lying about his death. I was always proud of him,” she says.

Ginger intends to keep moving forward with the foundation. She wants a copy of “Sunny’s Story” on every family kitchen table in the country. She wants parents to speak to their children and for the children to speak to the adults in their lives. She wants that army of mothers speaking out.

GINGER in the field, and here is Aracely Marquez, 6, meets Ginger, a field Beagle representing Sunny, the beagle who tried to save Ian Katz’ life.

You wouldn’t think a 6-year-old would need a drug prevention program. She doesn’t. Aracely Marquez was at the Courage to Speak Foundation’s family night Tuesday because the program had an impact on her mom.

“I first came to Courage to Speak in 1999 at St. Thomas Church,” said Jona Marquez, 28. “I come every once in a while because I think [Courage to Speak founder Ginger Katz] is excellent. I help out with the youth group and some of them are here.”

Children were an integral part of the event held at West Rocks Middle School. Volunteers said 104 people registered, and each represented a family. First they had dinner, then the kids mobbed a dog – a field beagle who represented Sunny, the dog Katz uses to touch kids’ hearts in a picture book about the night her son died of a drug overdose.

“Sunny’s Story” is part of the curriculum at area schools. Sunny tried to save 20-year-old Ian Katz’s life by waking up his mother, but was unsuccessful. That was more than 14 years ago, but the dog is still having impact.

A series of children walked up to a microphone in front of hundreds of people in the school’s auditorium and said so, reading letters they had written to Katz after they finished “Sunny’s Story.”

“After what happened to Ian I will never do drugs,” said Anastasia Negron, a Brookside Elementary School pupil. “I don’t want to get hurt or get addicted to it.”

Hannah Parks said the part where Sunny laid on Ian’s chest as he was dying really hit her hard. “I still can’t stop thinking about how Ian’s life was taken by drugs,” she said.

All the children expressed sympathy for Ian’s mom. “I wish you didn’t have to lose your son,” said Jayda Cruz, a West Rocks Middle School student. “I can’t imagine how it feels.”

Devon Hubbert, 17, said he had been drug free for three months. “I was touched with her story … so I stopped,” he said.

Did you go through the Courage to Speak curriculum?

Do you think it works?

I’m not a hero,” Ginger says. “I’m just a mother who has a vision.” www.couragetospeak.org and www.sunnysstory.com

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