International Overdose Awareness Day commemorated on Georgetown Circle

Attendees remember loved ones lost to addiction
September 12, 2023

Aurora Palverento wears a button that says “Ask me about Sam” as she prints “Sam and Gary” and a big heart on a white bag that will contain a candle to commemorate her parents, whom she lost to overdoses. Her mother Samantha Smith overdosed in 2016, while her dad Gary Palverento overdosed in May of 2022. She wrote, “I hope Heaven treats you right. I miss and love you guys.”

It’s a very rough road for a 10-year-old, but she is an extraordinary young lady surrounded by a loving support system in her grandmother Teressa Payne and her step-grandfather Mark, aunt Rebecca and great-grandmother Janie Donato.

“She’s a very brave little girl,” said Payne, who has had permanent guardianship since her daughter’s death when Aurora was just 3. “She goes to therapy every two weeks and is mature beyond her years.”

Aurora is a fifth-grader at the Southern Delaware School of the Arts in Selbyville, where her passion is dance. She has performed for Dance Alley in Millsboro, where she is in the recital class and on the competition team. She recently was presented her seven-year trophy.

“I dance for my mom and dad,” she said.

She spoke to the hundreds of people gathered on The Circle in Georgetown to remember their loved ones who died of an overdose.

“In 2016, I was 3, and in 2022, I was 9. They were the worst years of my life, all because of drugs,” she said. “I am so grateful for my family’s support. They love me so much. They pick me up when I am down. I will never do drugs. Drugs ruin your life in so many ways. I pray for everyone in recovery.”

The event corresponded with International Overdose Awareness Day. Nearly 200 people attended the event where addiction recovery services were present to give information and support about local resources, treatment and offer “messages of remembrance, healing and hope.”

Monica Bayless, who lost her sister to overdose in 2021, was inspired to go to school to become a drug and alcohol counselor. She is now an intern at Thresholds Treatment Center in Georgetown.

“I am honored to have the opportunity to attend the vigil as an intern at Thresholds,” she said. “It was well put together and very touching for many, including myself. It was an event that I will continue to attend in the future.”

AtTAcK Addiction board member Karl Fischer told the more than 100 people gathered that addiction is a family disease; it’s a community disease.

“The fellowship among the recovery world is very powerful,” he said. “All of us here tonight are broken in some way. Through those breaks, we have strength.”

And love of the family is so important to the ones left behind.

“I make it each day with the love of my family,” said Aurora. “They help me carry on.”


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