According to a recent CDC report, 72,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2017. Over 40% of those cases involved fentanyl. My cousin, Samuel Gillman, was among those lost. He died July 22, 2017 at the age of 24 from a fentanyl-laced heroin overdose.
Samuel was – and remains – incredibly important to me, I keep him near me at all times. If you know and love me, then you would’ve loved Samuel. He was incredibly fun to be around and had such deep, authentic relationships with those close to him. He accepted his friends and family for who they were, no matter what. Whenever I spent time in Cincinnati, I made a point of seeing him – to be hugged by him, to laugh with him, I’d do anything just to be around his energy again. His memory is carried on by his five-year-old daughter, who looks exactly like him. Together, we will always keep his spirit alive.
His loss was devastating for our entire family but, despite our pain, his mother/my cousin, Katie, turned this tragedy into something inspiring. Katie is the strongest person I know. I will never forget her bravery as she stood in line at Samuel’s wake, greeting every single person who came to pay their respects. When she was ready, she said, she wanted to start a foundation in her son’s name and she asked me to be on the board.
Our SAM Foundation is built on the knowledge that addiction is a disease where recovery is achievable, even if it takes multiple attempts. For anyone who wants to pursue rehabilitation without the means to afford it, we will be there to help. We will provide scholarship funds to help those pursuing sober living.
As a member of the board, I’m looking to help raise money for our cause through your support. I have signed up to run a half-marathon on September 16, 2018 in New Jersey. Although I have run four marathons, I have not been running much lately. This will be a big challenge for me but I will finish this half marathon. If you are willing to pledge your support, I would greatly appreciate a donation to Our SAM Foundation so we can continue to help those who are battling addiction.
Please join me in confronting this serious problem facing our country and our loved ones. Together, we can save lives.
Erin K. Banks
PS: A HUGE Thank YOU to Rebekah Sparks who has helped me so many times put these emotional words into some clarity