MOUNT ZION — Kathy Burkham of Mount Zion drove to Peru on Aug. 31, 2012, to attend an event organized by a woman who lost her son to a heroin overdose the previous fall.

Burkham, whose 23-year-old son, Tyler Yount, died from a cocaine/

heroin overdose in 2009, was so impressed that she and her husband, Mike, decided to present a similar event in Mount Zion.

The Overdose Awareness Day event Saturday morning will include a 5K run, one-mile walk and many speakers, including law enforcement officials, people who have suffered the loss of loved ones and former drug addicts.

“It’s a forum based on reflection, education and prevention,” said Mike Burkham, co-owner of Decatur Ambulance Service.

Overdose Awareness Day, which will be marked by ceremonies in at least 21 U.S. cities Saturday, originated in 2001 in Melbourne, Australia, when a Salvation Army worker who worked with addicts decided that those who were grieving were additionally burdened because of the stigma attached to drug addiction. She wanted to establish a day for people to help each other overcome the burden of grief.

Kathy Burkham said her spirits were tremendously uplifted last year when she met other mothers and relatives who knew exactly what she was going through. She felt that she finally found people with whom she could share her most heartfelt thoughts.

“Nobody there was judging you with the stigma that goes with an overdose death,” she said.

Mike Burkham said his ambulances have been transporting people suffering from overdoses every day.

“We’ve seen a big increase in heroin in the last two years, especially in the last 12 months,” he said. “There’s more overdose deaths every year.”

Deaths from heroin and prescription drugs are on the rise in recent years, locally and throughout the nation, said Macon County Coroner Michael E. Day, whose job description includes informing the victims’ relatives of their deaths.

“This event is an opportunity for everybody to pause and reflect on the lives of those loved ones who have passed away due to this epidemic of drug usage,” Day said. “It is an opportunity for people to come together to meet and share their compassion and reach out to each other.”

The Burkhams are expecting a big turnout for the event, which they plan to hold every year.

“It seems like everybody has somebody in their family that battles with addiction,” Mike Burkham said.

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