Hooked: Educating Youth

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ATWOOD, Ill. (WAND)- In a darkened high school gymnasium, Connie Gyorr recounts how she learned of her daughter Marisa’s overdose death.

“A man who was picking up tin cans found my daughter. She was already dead,” Connie told the assembled students. “So overnight, by herself, she slowly died.”

Marisa had been a bright, talented young woman, Connie explained during a separate interview.

“She was an amazing young lady,” Connie said. “She was one of the best swimmers I know. She was into all kinds of sports and clubs at school.”

But through her teenage years, Marisa also began smoking, drinking and using drugs. She died at age 20, after a night out with someone else.

Since then, Connie has worked to educate others about the dangers of drugs, particularly heroin and other opioids. She has arranged educational programs and has spoken at school assemblies like this one.

Often, she explains the Illinois Good Samaritan Law, which legally protects people getting medical help for overdoses. After her presentations, she often speaks with students in small groups.

“We just say ‘Look, if you’re not comfortable talking to your pastor or your parents or your teacher, our phone number’s on that sheet that we gave you,’” Connie said. “You can call us, and we’ll help you get help.”

To support this work, Connie has also created a non-profit called Marisa’s Purpose, inspired by a conversation with her daughter.

“She said ‘Mom, I’ve finally realized my purpose,’” Connie said. “Who would have thought it would be this big? So many people are struggling. Maybe her purpose is to help them.”

Connie encourages parents and community groups to speak frankly with young people about addiction, drug abuse and available help.

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