By Agrippina Fadel
Dealing with addiction in the family and trying to find answers on how to save a loved one can be a very lonely place, said Kim Fields.
A Parkland resident of 29 years, Kim lost her son Wesley to fentanyl poisoning in 2017. Since then, she has become an avid supporter and organizer for Shatterproof, a non-profit working to end the addiction crisis.
On September 25, Kim organized a Shatterproof Rise Up Against Addiction 5k race in Quiet Waters Park with friends and supporters from Boca Raton, Parkland, Coral Springs, Margate, Pompano, and Deerfield Beach coming together to walk in Wesley’s memory.
At first, Shatterproof was an organization Kim suggested to people who wanted to do something for her or donate.
“But then I saw what the non-profit was doing, and the more I learned about them, the more impressed I was. So, I chose Shatterproof as the organization to channel my grief through,” she said.
Kim explained that Shatterproof hosts eight large fundraising races each year in cities across the U.S. — but not in Florida. In 2018, she decided to participate in a race in Boston, the city where Wesley lived before he passed away and where his fiancé and many friends still reside.
“They all walked with me, and we became Wesley’s Tribe. We did it again the next year and then had to take a break because of the pandemic, but Shatterproof started doing virtual walks,” Kim said.
Having that support for the virtual fundraisers gave her the idea to organize a walk for friends and family who wanted to help but lived in Florida and did not want to travel.
“Shatterproof still gave us the support, and we did our walk here. We chose Quiet Waters Park because it is a good central location for friends from all the neighboring cities,” said Kim, who made t-shirts and a banner commemorating her son’s legacy.
Between her two teams, the original Wesley’s Tribe in Boston and Wesley’s Tribe South, the group raised over $12K this year, the highest amount since Kim started participating in Shatterproof races.
As a single mother, Kim raised her two young sons, Wesley and Spencer, after their father passed away. The family lived in Mill Run for many years until she recently moved to Tampa.
Wesley, a 2012 graduate of Marjory Stoneman Douglas, was also in the marching band.
“We were as normal as could be and the last family I would have expected to deal with addiction. I don’t know how it started for him, he never came clean about that, but by the time he graduated, I realized he was using. Still, I didn’t know how bad of a hold it had on him,” said Kim.
When Wesley went to the University of North Florida, his family saw other signs of addiction and started discussing treatment.
“He was very resistant at first, but we found an interventionist, and he helped us get Wesley into a year-long treatment program in New Haven, CT. That’s when he got sober, and he stayed sober and clean for almost three years before he relapsed and died,” she said, adding that Wesley went back to school, got engaged to his longtime girlfriend, and was building a life for himself in Boston before the tragedy struck.
“He was a big-hearted, loving, and funny person. Trying to do something good through the non-profit that helps other families like ours is the only thing that helps me deal with my loss,” said Kim.
She added that Shatterproof advocates for better policies and standards on all levels and supports prevention and evidence-based treatment for addiction disorders, something Kim did not have access to when she tried to save her son.
“When I finally figured out how sick he was, I didn’t know where to turn. I called mental health and medical professionals, and they were no help. There was nothing out there to help people understand what treatment is good and effective, who is doing a good job, and who is just ripping you off,” Kim added.
She added that unlike with any other disease, where people know exactly where to go for expert treatment, patients with addiction and their loved ones are dealing with a lot of stigmas and often don’t have easy access to the knowledge, resources, and help they need.
“Shatterproof is changing that. They created Atlas, a quality measurement system for treatment options that recently came to Florida, which is something I needed with my son. Now the families can evaluate the facilities and treatment options, use their insurance, and find the best solution,” Kim said.
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- Agrippina Fadel grew up in Siberia and received her master's in journalism from Tyumen State University. Agrippina is also a writer and editor at Draftsy.net. She has been a US resident for over ten years and speaks English and Russian.
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