Hundreds gather to say they’re ‘Fed Up’ with opioid crisis

The Southeast Florida Recovery Advocates organized the event, which included a mile march through campus, a series of speakers, and a vigil.


Protesters marched to raise awareness of the opioid crisis in the United States. Joe Pye | Editor in chief.

Benjamin Paley, News Editor

Megan Lavenberg, 36, is recovering from alcohol and substance abuse. She remembers the day she quit, Oct. 22, 2015, after an accidental overdose.

“I gave up after fear of being judged,” Lavenberg said. “I took a massive overdose of pills. I was on organ life support. Ever since I have fought for my recovery.”

Lavenberg was the overdose recovery speaker at Fed Up, an event organized by the Southeast Florida Recovery Advocates as part of International Overdose Awareness Day.

The national event has had 51 rallies in 28 states to call on the government, the medical community, and the pharmaceutical industry to address the opioid crisis, according to Gaynelle Gosselin, one of the event organizers.

Hundreds were in attendance of the event, which began with a march in the research park. Participants created a sash that showed how their substance abuse affected them.

A sash with purple or black coloring symbolized someone who lost the battle with substance abuse; a sash with white coloring meant someone who is in recovery; a red sash symbolized someone who is still struggling with substance abuse.

From the research park, participants marched a banner across campus to the University Theater. Many in the crowd chanted “down with drugs” as they marched.

Once at the theater, speakers addressed the crowd about substance abuse and how politicians are working at the local levels here in South Florida to combat the opioid crisis. Some shared their experiences with friends and loved ones while Lavenberg shared her own.

Megan Lavenberg gives an emotional telling of her journey through recovery. Joe Pye | Editor in chief.

Currently, she’s pursuing her associate degree in elementary education at Palm Beach State College and has a 4.0 GPA.

At times throughout her speech, Lavenberg started crying. Members of the audience quickly cheered and shouted praises and words of encouragement.

Other speakers included: Palm Beach County Vice-Mayor Melissa McKinlay — who was the keynote speaker — State Attorney Dave Aronberg, and Chief Assistant State Attorney Al Johnson.

Delray police detective Nicole Lucas, Broward County Commissioner Chip LaMarca, and Miami-Dade County Deputy Mayor Russell Benfor spoke as well.

The event concluded with a vigil to those who have lost their lives to substance abuse.

Before Jonathon Dempf of Calvary Church led everyone in prayer, event organizer Gosselin told a story about the badge she was wearing.

(Left) Jonathon Dempf of FAU Calvary Church, (Right) Gaynelle Gosselin. Joe Pye | Editor in chief.

A mother to a 19-year-old son who is in recovery, Gosselin led the vigil in song and speech. A photo of her son at age 13 — before substance abuse entered his life — was pinned to her sash.

“We are here to remember those who have gone long before their time,” she said. “We really have to carry on for you. Always for you.”

Her son broke his arm and was prescribed a 30-day prescription of Vicodin. Around the same time, he started experimenting with alcohol and marijuana.

“I didn’t know how dangerous the drugs were,” she said. “You just don’t know. You have to learn to parent the kid you have, not the kid you don’t have.”  

During his prayer, Dempf noted the connection between the light from the candles and those who have lost someone to substance abuse.

“We try to shield it, protect it,” Dempf said. “Just like we try to protect and shield our loved ones.”

For a link to our photo gallery, click here.

Benjamin Paley is the news editor of the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected].