AP NEWS

‘Day of Hope’ remembers teenagers killed in 2005

May 19, 2019

HUNTINGTON - A “Day of Hope” began as a response to a quadruple homicide nearly 14 years ago. On May 22, 2005, teenagers Megan Poston, Eddrick Clark, Michael Dillon and Donte Ward were killed along Charleston Avenue on the night of Huntington High School’s prom.

“This event means a lot to me,” said Subrina Gebhardt, mother of Megan Poston. “It means our babies’ murders have not been forgotten. Maybe because of our babies’ deaths more people are being saved.”

Theressa Dillon, mother of Michael Dillon, says although it’s a difficult day for her to remember, she appreciates the thoughts and prayers of the community.

This year’s theme was “Awaken!”

“I hate that our kids had to die to wake up this town to realize the drug epidemic is not going to get better unless more was done,” Theressa Dillon said. “But it’s great to see so many people getting into recovery and getting into church where they can get the help they so desperately need.”

The event was held at the Erma Ora Byrd Clinical Center in the 1200 block of 15th Street in Huntington, across the street from where the homicides occurred. Both mothers were part of dozens in attendance at the event Saturday.

The Neighboring Initiative Charitable Trust (NICT), a faith-based community organization created to oversee the event, has sponsored a prayer and memorial service annually. The event started as a way to honor the teens and their families. Over the years it has evolved to denounce the opioid crisis and violent crime, while also celebrating individuals recovering from drug dependency and those making a difference in the community.

Steven Little, a City Church equipping and sending pastor and recovery coordinator for AmeriCorps VISTA, was the keynote speaker at the event.

“I want to give a message of hope,” Little said. “Huntington has had lots of hardship and suffering, but one of the great things I have seen here is that many people are overcoming that with hope and faith.”

At the Day of Hope, West Virginia House of Delegates 16th District representative Sean Hornbuckle, a Huntington financial adviser and member of Real Life Christian Center, was awarded the Steven L. Ferguson Memorial Award for his work serving the region.

He said he was humbled and honored to be recognized.

“I knew those kids involved in that tragic incident, so taking that and turning it into hope for the youth in our community and into recovery is something I want to keep going,” Hornbuckle said. “I will continue to keep the memories of those lost in that tragic event in my heart forever, and I will also continue to work hard for my community, my city, my district and my state to make things better and bring hope to everyone. Hope is the thing that keeps communities together, so it’s wonderful to see so many in the community coming together to remember those lost, while also keeping hope alive.”

The event also included testimonials from individuals in recovery from substance use disorder as a way to inspire others.

Rocky Meadows, an ordained minister and founder of Lifehouse, a recovery program in Huntington, says the event not only honors the lives of the four teens lost to violent crime, but it also offers hope and solutions to individuals recovering from drug dependency and those who have been victims of violent crimes.

“I truly believe if you only look at the problem, then you only see the problem and only have the problem, but if you look at the solution and become part of the solution, then you will have solutions, and that is what we are and what the Day of Hope represents,” Meadows said. “We urge those looking that are hurting and looking for help to turn to God. We believe God is the answer and the healer to all of our problems.”

Any person looking for help with substance abuse can contact the state hotline 24 hours a day at 844-435-7498 or visit www.help4wv.com.

Follow reporter Fred Pace at Facebook.com/FredPaceHD and via Twitter @FredPaceHD.