BUCYRUS – On a fateful night in 2009, Tony Grotrian’s family joined a club no one wants to belong to when his 20-year-old grandson was found dead from a heroin overdose.
Grotrian is the founder of Operation SOK (Save Our Kids) and was one of several speakers during the Fed Up Bucyrus, Lights of Change event at the Crawford County Courthouse Monday evening in honor of International Overdose Awareness Day.
Grotrian said Ohio is still number three in the state for accidental overdose deaths and that in 2013 alone, 8,257 Ohioans died from accidental drug overdoses.
“We have to fight this together in our communities,” Grotrian said, a father, grandfather and great-grandfather who retired from his job to focus all of his energy on his quest to put an end to the drug problems throughout Ohio, including Findlay where he resides.
Donna Hardymon placed a pair of her dad’s boots on the steps of the Crawford County Courthouse Monday evening as tears fell down her cheeks.
The boots represent the fact that her dad’s death was due to drugs, but not his drug addiction. Freelin Hensley was one of four local men who died at the hands of Donald Hoffman during a drug-fueled rage one year ago. Hoffman is now serving a life sentence in prison.
Judge Sean Leuthold said Crawford County was sucker punched while focusing on treatment for addicts.
“The drug dealers moved in but we are now fighting back and have made a dent in the drug trade in our community,” Leuthold said.
Recovering addict Brandon Brown almost lost his life to his drug addiction one year ago.
“I have been clean from heroin for 381 days,” Brown said.
Brown credits his success to his faith in Jesus, Pastors Danny and Alan Akers, mentor Shelley McNeal and Maryhaven.
“The police and judges are doing a good job. I think a huge dent has been made in the availability of drugs in our community,” Brown said.
Leuthold said he will continue to battle the drug issues in Crawford County.
Former Bucyrus mayor and candidate for the position in this year’s election said he came to the event to support the judge and police in their journey to put an end to drug addiction in our community.
“I am thankful for their good work in our community,” Ross said.
Donna Hardymon lost her father, Freelin Hensley, one year ago when he was murdered by Donald Hoffman along with three other Bucyrus men, during a drug-fueled rampage by Hoffman.
“He didn’t deserve what happened to him and neither did the others. It was because of Donald Hoffman and his drug use that I don’t have my father here with me anymore, “ Hardymon said through tears.
Bucyrus Police Chief Dave Koepke said the four murders were a wake-up call to the sobering reality of the drug problem and that his officers are committed to protecting and serving the public.
Koepke said neighborhood watch groups and the Bucyrus Chapter of the Guardian Angels have helped tremendously in the fight against drugs and crime in Bucyrus.
“The public is the police. We can’t make a difference without your help,” Koepke said.
Koepke said he and his officers will not give up the fight.
“Crawford County is worth the fight. We can get it back,” Koepke said.
Sarah Crokie Carman took the initiative to organize the Fed Up Bucyrus event.
“I grew up here and recently moved back. I wanted to do something to help and understand the problems caused by drug addiction. Several members of my own family suffer from addiction,” Carman said.
Carman’s cousin, April Dyer, was recently sentenced by Leuthold to four years and 11 months in prison for her role in the local drug trade.
“People should not be ashamed that they have family members who are involved with drugs. We need to be aware of the problems and face them,” Carman said.
Grotrian has written a book about his experience with the loss of his grandson, Aaron, to drug addiction and the effects it has had on his family, including his grandson’s daughter who had just celebrated her first birthday days before her father died. For more information, visit https://www.facebook.com/operation.sok on Facebook. For information on how to get help for drug addiction, visit https://www.maryhaven.com or http://www.twhtwh.com.
Reach Gasuras can be reached on Twitter @kimberlygasuras