ATWOOD, Ill. (WCIA) -- An entire community is coming together for the 5k at the Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon to show their support for a family who lost one of their own. CI Living's Ryan Burk found out how an entire town is this morning's Face of the Race.
Sunset... a time of day where you can't help but reflect. As she walks the halls of her daughter Shalynn's former school, Stacy Welch can't help but reflect on the memories of the person who brought so much light to her life. "Cheerleader, homecoming queen, everybody loved Shalynn, she was just a beautiful, beautiful person," Welch said. "Just happy all the time, you couldn't help but love her."
She was beloved by the community, but addiction robbed her family and this town of that beaming smile.
"She graduated high school was getting ready to go to Southern Illinois University and started dabbling in drugs a little bit and over the course of four years," Welch said. "It got a little worse, went to treatment a couple times, and unfortunately at 22 it had progressed to heroin and she passed away from a heroin overdose."
Stacy turned to running to help with the grief. "Running is my go to. It is a way to clear my mind. I do a lot of my praying when I run."
Now the community is joining her.
Atwood is coming together to support "Shalynn's Hope," which honors her memory and works to help others fighting addition.
Now dozens are planning to run the 5k in April.
"We have people who don't even run, that have signed up to do this," Welch said. "We will have a lot of first time 5k-ers here, they may walk it, they may run it, but they are getting involved, getting healthy, and we are coming together as a community to support Shalynn's hope." As everyone gathers for a warm up, it shows Atwood's dedication. "It just shows you a small town, they do come together in some of the toughest times, and when Shalynn passed it was one of the toughest things for the town of Atwood."
Through the grief, her mom hopes sharing Shalynn's story with the world come race day will spread an important message.
"We need to stop the stigma, stop the silence, and stop the shame because this happens to everyone."
Sharing a story...
"She is guiding me every step of the way. She is the reason all those people are in there. Every decision I make I am doing it for her."
...to help make Shalynn's memory shine bright for all.
ATWOOD, Ill. (WAND)- Stacy Welch remembers her daughter Shalynn as a happy girl. "She was one of the happiest kids I've ever known," Stacy said. "Her nickname growing up was 'smiley.' In high school, she was involved in everything. She was homecoming queen." As a high schooler, Shalynn was accepted as a student at Southern Illinois University, but Stacy says, after her senior year of high school, Shalynn starting spending time with a new group.
"Started dabbling in marijuana, started drinking a little, and eventually they were popping pills," Stacy said. "We did everything we knew to do. We had her in treatment. We brought her home. She went to meetings. We talked about it."
Eventually, Shalynn went to treatment for several months.
"She came home in June (2017). We really thought she had it beat this time. She got a job, was working out with me, living at home and doing great. We had no idea she relapsed," Stacy said. "She came home one Friday night, said 'love you mama, going to bed.' I got up the next morning, went to her room, and she was already gone."
Shalynn had died of an overdose. She was 22.
Though the statistics may be dire, people affected by overdose are stepping up to help save lives. Stacy Welch has led training sessions on the use of Narcan, a drug that can stop overdoses. She is also planning other events to raise awareness of the crisis.
"We're doing it because we care. We don't want anybody to go through what we've been through," Stacy said. "Addiction doesn't discriminate. Shalynn was your all-American teenage girl. She wanted to get out on her own, get a job, get married, but for whatever unfortunate reason, that drug just doesn't let you do that."
Stacy Welch took part in a Facebook Live question session following the Hooked: The Opioid Crisis in
Illinois Special on WANDTV. She participated along with Mike Burcham (Founder of Tyler Yount
Foundation) Tom Delegatto (Executive Director of Sunspire Health - Heartland) and Christian County
Sheriff Bruce Kettlekamp.
Stacy Welch along with Connie Gyorr of Monticello, IL and Ellen and Lowell Mennega of Savoy, IL speak
to students at Arthur-Lovington Atwood-Hammond High School. This group of parents helps to inform
students and parents of the signs of drug abuse and what to do if you know someone who is using.
ATWOOD, Ill. (WAND): A local mom is hoping to use her family tragedy to help others.
"I lost my daughter, Shalynn, on October 14th of this last year to an overdose," Stacy Welch says. "She
had been to treatment, she was currently clean, and she had relapsed."
Stacy says she wants to keep this from happening to other mothers.
"I want to get the importance out there to notify someone," Welch says. "You can call your pastor, you
can call a police officer, a family member - let someone know because we could have gotten her the help
that she needed and she could be in treatment now."
Tonight Stacy is partnering with the Champaign Urbana Public Health District for a public awareness
meeting about the overdose drug Narcan.
"They'll show a movie, they'll show us how to use the kit and they'll be available if you'd like to take one
home," Welch says.
She plans to tell her daughters story and talk about the Good Samaritan Law.
"It protects citizens if you are around someone having an overdose, you can take them to the hospital,
you can call somebody and you're not going to get in trouble," Welch says.