Memphis bridge lighting honors those lost to drug addiction

Memphis bridge lighting honors those lost to drug addiction
Ronnie Bobal (Source: family)

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - The family of Ronnie Bobal will unite with other Mid-South families who lost loved ones to drug overdose on Friday, Aug. 31.

That day also happens to be International Overdose Awareness Day.

"We understand no matter what," said Ron Bobal, father of the 29-year-old Memphis graffiti artist who died on Christmas Day 2016.

Bobal formed a 501 ©3 tax exempt non-profit to help other addicts and their families after his son's passing.

"I had to take all the energy and put it into something else," Bobal said.

The nonprofit is called A Betor Way, a play on "Betor," Ronnie's name as a graffiti artist.

The nonprofit organized the Aug. 31 event that'll include speeches, images of loved ones lost to overdose, and a candle lighting.

There will also be the lighting of the Big River Crossing in the International Overdose Awareness Day colors.

In addition to remembering those who've died in our nation's opioid epidemic, A Betor Way seeks to help addicts in active addiction until they can bottom out and seek recovery.

To that end, the organization plans to create a "Harm Reduction Unit" that would include a needle exchange with clean syringes, so addicts would not necessarily expose themselves to HIV or Hepatitis C.

"We might be helping prevent a police officer from getting stuck by a dirty sharp," Bobal said of the needle exchange. "We hope addicts will realize will see that we care, and they might start caring about themselves."

Bobal says needle exchanges now operate in Nashville and Chattanooga but no similar program is available in Memphis.

He said that the Harm Reduction Unit might also offer sanitary cooking devices that addicts use to prepare their injections.

Bobal says his group also wants to see more detoxification beds open in Memphis.

A Betor Way hopes to partner with churches and "invite church members to go into their attics and give clothes they're not using to addicts," Bobal said.

The organization wants to help active and recovering addicts learn life skills.

"These are gaps that our son used to complain about," Bobal said. "They deserve the same respect anyone else gets."

On Saturday, Sept. 8, A Betor Way will host "The Art of Addiction," an open call exhibition of artwork by individuals who've been touched by substance abuse.

Themes include empowerment, understanding, acceptance and recovery. The event will take place at Crosstown Arts, 430 N Cleveland from 5:30-10 p.m.

You can find more information on the group's Facebook page.

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