By Mark Powell
One Mother’s Loss is Another Mother’s Saving Grace
It was a typical high school graduation party in northern Indiana back in 2015. Grads, family, and friends celebrating the big achievement. As Becky Savage was preparing to leave, her teenage sons Nick and Jack were heading to a second party. When she said goodbye, she had no idea she would never see them alive again.
Someone brought prescription pills to the other party. And lots of kids took them. There were five overdoses that night. Nick and Jack were the only two who didn’t wake up.
Becky and her husband faced an overwhelming loss. Many people would have been emotionally crippled by losing two of their four children at once. They were a close-knit family and the grief was intense. They took a year to focus on healing together: counseling, and crying, and lots of hugs.
One year later, Becky was invited to speak at a community forum about underage drinking. She believed her sons’ experimentation with alcohol opened the doors for other experimentation, and she wanted to share her experience. Becky was told 15-20 people would be at the forum. Instead, more than 200 people showed up.
“It scared me to speak to that many people,” she admits. “I’d never done public speaking before. But it showed me that our community was scared of something like this happening to their families.” She told them what had happened in hers. “I was trained as a nurse and educator, and I didn’t know kids were misusing pills.”
It turned out others didn’t know, either. Becky started getting requests from local schools because kids were responding to her story.
So Becky and her husband established the 525 Foundation. Its name holds special significance to the Savages. Jack and Nick were avid hockey players; “5” and “25” were their jersey numbers.
Now, Becky travels across the country, speaking at high schools and sharing her story.
She encourages students to be good friends while also letting them know about the dangers of improperly using prescription medications.
The organization quickly snowballed into other areas. Becky got involved in DEA drug take-back days. “I didn’t know anything about it until my sons passed,” she says. “But I thought, ‘let’s do something about the pills in the community’. Then people wanted to know what to do with drugs outside of those take-back days.” So the Drop2Stop program was started, with drop boxes placed in a local grocery store. It soon grew to ten stores. “The boxes are front and center and are a visual reminder to people to get rid of their prescriptions responsibly,” Becky says. “Now they don’t have to drive downtown to the police station.” That easy access produced an enthusiastic response. In the last 23 months, more than three tons of pills were collected.
The Foundation’s ultimate goal is saving lives. “You never know whose life you’re going to touch,” she says. Becky Savage’s life was devastated by a double tragedy. Now it is her motivation to reach as many lives as she can.
525 Foundation was a featured award winner in the 2019 Innovation Now project of the Addiction Policy Forum.
J. Mark Powell is an author, former network journalist, and veteran communications expert.