raising awareness about the dangers of substance abuse
by Lynn Meredith
BATAVIA—Chris’ Walk began four years ago after Vicki Altepeter Foley lost her son Chris to a heroin overdose. She and the members of her extended family created a walk against substance abuse to raise awareness of the dangers of addiction. The walk raises money for Hearts of Hope, a non-profit in Geneva. In the aftermath of Chris’s death, Foley found her life’s passion.
“I learned so much since he has been gone,” Foley said. “It really is a disease. Some people smoke. Some people drink. Some people gamble. It alters the brain and is one of the hardest drugs to get off.”
Chris Foley began his journey to addiction with marijuana. The use of drugs progressed until he took up heroin at age 17. He was introduced to the drug at a party with friends from high school in St. Charles. For so many people who succumb to addiction, the reasons are not clear and the process’s out of the user’s control.
“I asked him why he used the drugs, and he never could answer. The act of taking the drug alters the brain. He was never the same. He said to me once, “Mom, do you know how many times a day I have to say ‘no?’ It can happen to anybody,” Foley said.
The stigma of drug addiction often keeps people from dealing with the problems, Foley said. Unlike the common myth that drug addicts are on the streets of a large city, the issue is quite serious in the suburbs. Whereas Chicago used to be the hub for distribution, now the drugs are being sold in the Fox Valley.
“You can get it for ten dollars,” she said. “It’s a cheap way to feel numb and have all your worries go away. It’s a way for kids to cope who don’t have the skills to cope with life. There have been a number of deaths in our area.”
Foley is passionate in her pursuit to help families and save lives. She goes every Tuesday into jails to teach life skills to inmates, many of whom are there because of theft or other crimes related to addiction. She sees inmates with no place to live after they are released, no job, and a record. Without rehabilitation, it can be a continuing cycle. She tries to help them deal with their emotions and even abusive relationships.
“I believe addiction can only be overcome with a Christ-centered approach. We try to give them hope,” she said. “If it wasn’t for my faith, I would never have gotten through Chris’s death. I don’t want people to go through what my family went through.”
Foley said she has changed through her experience with an addiction in her family. She was not outspoken before, but now is passionate about talking to everyone she can.
“Now, I get on my soapbox. Once something like this hits, you have to do something. I’m trying to save one life at a time, she said. “I will do this until the day I die.”
Chris’ Walk Against
The 4th Annual Chris’ Walk Against Substance Abuse will be held on Saturday, July 16, at the Batavia Riverwalk, 155 Houston St., Batavia. Registration for the one-mile family-friendly walk starts at 8:30 a.m., the walk is at 9 a.m. and a rally featuring Kane County Sheriff Pat Perez starts at 10 a.m. There is no cost to participate; however, pledges are encouraged. Activities include face painting, a balloon launch, chair massages and more. Register at www.chriswalk.net. Call Vicki Altepeter Foley for informatoin (630) 802-1868.