Christmas tree reminds locals of overdose victims

Local News

The holidays are about spending time with family and loved ones, but for some, it’s a reminder of who they’ve lost to addiction.

Marianne Sinisi lost her son, Shawn, in September after he relapsed and used heroin laced with Fentanyl. She said she didn’t want to put up any of her Christmas decorations. Then, she saw the artificial tree in her attic.

“When I saw that one up in storage, it just struck me: I’m gonna honor him in some way. I know he would say to do it, and that’s what other people would say: he’d want you to do this,” Sinisi said.

She, along with others like Krista Knapp, founder of the F.A.I.T.H Foundation, are trying to prevent this from happening to anyone else. Knapp is in long term recovery herself.

“We just had another boy, Tyler, who lost his battle Saturday, and when they’re gone, they’re gone. There’s nothing you can do to help them, so we want to make that change. We want to be the difference because it is very heart wrenching for the families that have lost loved ones, and I just want to help in any way I can,” Knapp said.

Pastor John Gray, Director of the Foundry Recovery House, visited with Shawn while he was in prison. He said Shawn was a great kid, the kind you’d fall in love with immediately. But then, addiction took him over.

“You know, deep down inside your body, when you’ve been addicted, it craves that drug, and you put on top of that all of the hurt and the emotional pain that individual is going through.They see that drug as a release, and really it ends up being a bondage to them. That’s what it became to Shawn. It became a bondage to him,” Gray said.

Sinisi said she wants people to understand that addiction is a disease and not a loss of will power.

The tree will stay up until January 6 at the First United Methodist Church in Hollidaysburg. There is also a donation box by the tree where people can help raise money for two local nonprofit organizations: The Foundry Recovery House and the F.A.I.T.H Foundation, which is building a new recovery house.

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