The Erath County Community Coalition (EC3) will host a candlelight vigil remembering those lost to substance abuse.

“It’s important for community members to raise awareness and reduce the stigma attached to substance abuse,” said Eric Lockwood, coalition coordinator. “There are a lot of people out there struggling and we want them to feel comfortable reaching out for help.”

The third annual vigil will take place from 7-8 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 25, at Birdsong Amphitheater at Stephenville City Park.

Kathy O’Keefe with “Winning the Fight,” an organization that offers education and support to families suffering from drug addiction, will be the keynote speaker.

Her son, Brett O’Keefe, died from a heroin overdose on March 10, 2010 in Flower Mound.

The E-T spoke to O’Keefe about her son’s struggle and her efforts since his death to help others struggling with addiction.

O’Keefe said Brett began smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol in middle school and in the seventh grade began experimenting with ecstasy, mushrooms and prescription medications.

“It just progressed,” she said. “He overdosed (on heroin) when he was 17 and again six months later. Then he went to rehab.”

Rehab seemed to help for awhile, O’Keefe said, but he soon returned to his old friends and old habits.

Shortly after turning 18, a third overdose claimed his life.

“At Brett’s visitation, God said, ‘You have got to do something,’” O’Keefe said.

She recalled looking around the room at many of her son’s friends she knew were also struggling with alcohol and drug addiction. She brought in counselors with Narcotics Anonymous to help them, and not long after, formed WTF.

According to WTF’s website, someone dies from a drug overdose every 14 minutes.

“People that are affected by this are not psychologically disturbed, junkies or criminals, but normal kids that come from very normal families,” the website states.

It’s a daunting statistic EC3 is trying to change with its candlelight vigil.

“Families who have lost loved ones to substance abuse are invited to bring photos of them to place on a table,” Lockwood said. “We will supply the candles and serve refreshments.

“We will also have local counseling organizations and treatment facilities on hand if people need to talk or take that next step to get help.”