Our son John had a great personality! He was fun, witty, and energetic. He had a loving, caring, kind

spirit toward people and animals. He was helpful, respectful, and focused. He excelled at anything

he wanted to do and was an accomplished skateboarder. He loved to snowboard, play piano, fish,

swim, and golf. John had immense potential for success, but he began using drugs just for fun at first but over time that fun progressed into an addiction to dangerous drugs that rendered him helpless.

John made several short-lived attempts at staying clean. In his last rehab he thrived. He was

committed to recovery. He wanted treatment. He wanted out of the judicial system, and he wanted

to get on with his life. It was so nice to see him smile again and listen to his contagious laugh. We

were happy as we watched him once again do the things that he enjoyed so much. He earned a GED,

enrolled in college, and worked for a landscaper who later told me about his good work ethic.

He was so excited and proud of himself when he hit his 1-yr drug-free anniversary. That was March

of 2011 and he celebrated his 21st birthday in April. He thought it would be ok to drink, but a few

occasional beers became more beer, more often, and then hard liquor. He lost his willpower and

relapsed the last time on July 6th. He didn’t want to die that day. He only used enough to get high,

but what he didn’t know was the heroin he used was laced with Fentanyl and the combination killed

him instantly.

Loving, kind condolences over the years without John have provided immeasurable comfort and we

are in awe of people’s kindness, generosity, and their understanding of our situation. We were

responsible parents of a wonderful kid who made a risky choice which cost him his life. A life cut

way too short but a life that even after death will continue to touch other people’s lives in a positive

way. His father and I vowed to find ways to help other people in situations that we knew all too well.

At that time, we had no idea how God would work that out.

In March of the following year, a friend told me about Kacie Rumford’s passing and how her father,

Andy was on a mission to bring education and awareness of the heroin epidemic to local

communities, starting with his own in Kennett Square. I attended his first Town Hall meeting at the

Longwood Fire Dept and was amazed at the overwhelming support for his newly-organized cause.

I knew that I was being called do something in my own community and I set up our first meeting in

Parkesburg in August of 2013. That was the beginning of a strong, loyal and dedicated team of

women (and men) who have all been affected by drug abuse in one way or another. We created our

mission statement which we use in planning every event in the Octorara School District and the

community and we work tirelessly to help others. It has become a blessing to us, John’s friends, his

extended family, and many local families. We have recently begun to realize that we are truly

making a difference in the lives of young students and their families.

John Gillen
Born April 27, 1990 -
 Died July 6, 2011 
John Gillen (1990-2011)