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Akron group Keys to Serenity memorializes daughter’s overdose death, supports grieving families

January 10, 2018

Akron group Keys to Serenity memorializes daughter’s overdose death, supports grieving families

AKRON, Ohio -- When Brenda Cameron Ryan’s daughter, Sheena Moore, died of an overdose in 2016, Ryan was stricken with the complexities of grieving a child while managing the aftermath of her daughter’s life.

Establishing custody of a five-year-old grandson, Wyatt, navigating the court system as the fentanyl dealer who gave Moore drugs was prosecuted, and bearing up under the stigma of a drug-related death were all tough enough without the added weight of a mother’s grief.

So Ryan chose to take action to help other families get through what she remembers as the toughest challenge of her life. Her action has morphed into a family-support organization called Keys to Serenity, which working hand-in-hand with nonprofit Akron Say No to Dope, will soon have its own nonprofit status.

“There’s not much out there helping families,” Ryan said. “You’re so worried about cleaning up the mess from it and trying to carry on this secret about how your child died. These parents are trying to grieve that child but are stuck with the stigma. I was very open about my daughter’s death to break that.”

Immediately after 31-year-old Moore’s death, Ryan posted the details of her daughter’s addiction and recovery, including the relapse that led to her death.

“Overdose relapses can happen even after sobriety,” Ryan said. “Sheena would want people to know that even though you’re sober, this is a life-long disease. She always said she hated heroin but heroin loved her.”

Previous coverage: Heroin is Killing My Town: Massachusetts nonprofit rallies followers to Akron

Ryan also attended the Heroin is Killing My Town rally that drew hundreds to Lock 3 just two months after Sheena’s death. There she witnessed the full force of the overdose epidemic and realized how many families were in pain.

She started a little at a time, giving money out of her own pocket to help grieving families and working to connect them with support groups and local services. The response from families to those efforts was so strong, Ryan recently planned her first fundraiser, a reverse raffle and dinner at the Moose Lodge in Peninsula, which quickly sold out.

For the fundraiser, Ryan asked families to submit photos of their loved ones who had overdosed. She received nearly 100. To honor those lives, her son, Jason Moore, created a video, which will be shown at the event this weekend.

Ryan also is developing a monthly series, Keys to a New Habit, which will be held at the Kenmore Community Center. The series will feature programming designed to help people get on with lives of sobriety by learning how to get their driver’s license back, return to the workforce, bring children back into their lives and other essential activities. She also serves as a speaker to area groups about the drug epidemic, and the loss of a child.

“It isn’t just about our family anymore,” she said. “It’s now about the addicts and what helps them.”

Once Keys to Serenity’s nonprofit status is finalized, Ryan will move her office from her home into Akron Say No to Dope’s New Beginnings Boutique and Thrift store at 932 Kenmore Blvd. in Kenmore.

New Beginnings offers more than good second-hand items -- it’s a popular gathering place for locals seeking sobriety. The store offers interventions and placements into treatment centers through its hotline 855-246-5483 (LIVE).

“The magic happens behind the counter,” Ryan said. “People stop by and know it’s a sober place to hang out.”

Contact Keys to Serenity by calling 330-730-0864 and follow Keys to Serenity and Akron Say No to Dope via their Facebook pages.

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