It’s not yet set in stone, but two local organizations are determined to raise enough money to have a memorial built in recognition of those who've lost their life to drug poisoning.
The I Remember Project aims to provide a space for those to remember loved ones who have passed away and serve as an educational piece that highlights the number of overdoses that have happened within the community.
Wellington Guelph Drug Strategy and ARCH are set to formally unveil the project and its design on Aug. 31 at Overdose Awareness Day event in Downtown Guelph.
Karen Lomax, the overdose prevention coordinator at ARCH, said the idea for a memorial came from the Overdose Awareness Day and the Support Not Stigma event in 2020.
While speaking at that event last year, Lomax looked up at the crowd and noticed a row of people in the back holding photographs. Unsure of what the photos were for, Lomax said she then saw people place the photos inside the outlines of bodies drawn on the sidewalk, as part of the die-in.
“These are the pictures of their children, their family members,” said Lomax. “I was not expecting that.”
It was seeing the photographs, and one woman telling Lomax how this was the only space she could grieve for her son, that lit a fire in her.
“I thought, ‘My gosh, these people need a memorial.’”
Adrienne Crowder, manager of WGDS, agrees it was important to have a physical focusing point for those grieving or advocating for policy changes.
“As a community, we want to have, not just a day where we remember the lives lost, but have a constant reminder and we have a constant place where people can go to just be in that space, connecting to the people they have lost,” said Crowder.
The estimated cost for the memorial is $50,000. Crowder explains both organizations will be raising all the money for the project through fundraising initiatives, like T-shirt and hat sales, or through grants and private donations.
There is also a plan to start selling bricks, which would make up the pathways going up to and away from the memorial.
“So a number of people can be a part of it without it being overly costly, and be a part of the bricks,” said Lomax.
For the concept of the memorial, the project received help from Mark Salisbury, a city councillor and landscape architect, and his company, Earth Artist Planning & Design.
The memorial design consists of a pathway leading toward a circular stone saying ‘Friends’ and a pathway leading away from the site saying ‘Family.’ Around the memorial will be grass with each blade representing one person who has passed away from drug poisoning.
“I really wanted to reflect that this was a community and that it affects all of us,” said Salisbury, who lost his wife to an overdose and who has been open about his own addiction earlier in his life.
“It was abstracted to communicate the scale of it, but at the same time, the environment is pleasant, it’s a place where you can be at peace.”
“It was really nice how he took parts of their imaginations and what they thought and made this rendition for us,” said Lomax.
“We want it to look professional and have it fit in, in the landscape that it’s going to be in.”
With a concept and fundraising plan in place, Lomax said they will be reaching out to the City of Guelph to see about forming a partnership in which space in a park can be donated to the project.
“We would like to use one of the City of Guelph’s parks to host our memorial,” said Lomax, “But, as Adrienne Crowder has said, if the City of Guelph is not able to do that, we will find a private spot to do, because we feel it is important, so it’s going to go up.”
To learn more about the I Remember Project, or to make a donation, visit archguelph.ca.