Massachusetts resident Zach Gys was always considered a good son. He got good grades, was an exemplary baseball and hockey player and was always dressed well. However, Gys twisted his ankle in his senior year while playing hockey, changing his fate, the Lowell Sun stated.
A dangerous choice
A fellow teammate offered him a Percocet to dull the pain. Though seemingly harmless, that one pill brought Gys spiraling down the road of addiction. Gys used Percocets, which then led to OxyContin. Unable to afford his addiction, Gys switched to heroin.
By the time his parents finally caught on, Gys’ addiction was too great. He passed away of a heroin overdose in July 2013. At the time, Gys was in rehab – one of many failed attempts his parents had made to try to save their son.
The rate of drug overdoses has skyrocketed in Massachusetts. Trust for America’s Health stated that the Bay State has the 32nd highest drug overdose rate in the nation. From 1999 to 2013, the rate of overdoses, which are mainly from prescription drugs, increased by nearly 50 percent.
Turning the negative into a positive
Since the Gys family could not help their son, they are trying to help others. They began the Zach’s Team Foundation, which raises money for those battling addiction. The foundation gives people scholarships so they can afford to go to an addiction treatment center.
One of the foundation’s first fundraisers was a golf tournament and a silent auction, which raked in more than $50,000 to contribute to the scholarships. The Gys scheduled the fundraiser in September because it is National Recovery Month. Zach’s parents, Louis Griffin and Mickey Gys, are hoping to give out four scholarships, each of which costs about $8,000, to fully pay for a five-week rehabilitation program.
The couple also hopes to get a website running for the foundation. One local addiction treatment center stated it would match every dollar made at the fundraiser.
The Gys believed they had warned their son about the dangers of alcohol and drug use. However, they never warned him about the dangers of prescription pills because they did not seem dangerous.
Eliminating addiction’s stigma
State Rep. Tom Golden, D-Lowell, spoke at the fundraiser. He told the story of a good friend who began his battle with opiate addiction nine years ago. Golden noted that he hopes to erase the stigma that surrounds addiction, since people deal with it in every walk of life.
“I grew up with people saying ‘that’s them – those people,’ but that’s not the way it is today,” Golden said. “I don’t know what we were thinking, quite frankly, because those people are our friends, our family, and people we love.”
He noted that people facing addiction should not be embarrassed or ashamed.
The Gys hope that the foundation will be a success. They decided to take action after their son’s passing instead of being consumed by the situation.