Overdose propels Mom to activism.
Meet the Loranzo Family
“My daughter passed away of a heroin overdose six weeks ago,” says Wendy Loranzo. Still getting used to saying those words aloud, Wendy is putting all her efforts into caring for her 10-month-old grandson, Carson, and the fiancé, Kyle, that her daughter, Liz, left behind when she died at age 25. Wendy has also suddenly found herself at the center of a campaign that raises awareness about addiction and supports treatment for people who want it.
“After my daughter passed, I was under a lot of stress,” Wendy says, describing the worst period of her life. “There were just no words, for me, or my family and friends. Nothing we could say.” Struggling with how to express this grief to others who had lost loved ones, including opioid overdose, it dawned on Wendy. “The only thing to say was ‘I care,’” she recalls. “So I started the I Care Foundation three days after Liz’s funeral.”
“I just needed to let people know that others care,” Wendy explains of the movement she started on social media. A few weeks later, the I Care ♥ PA Facebook page had more than 2,000 followers, had sold more than 500 T-shirts, and was providing a place for the community to come together to fight addiction.
“At first, I was afraid of the stigma around heroin,” Wendy says. “But I needed to let people know that it can happen to anyone. We can no longer be ashamed and sweep it under the rug. When Liz went to rehab, I did that. I can’t do it anymore; I need to tell her story.”
Liz had battled addiction through a rehab program where she met Kyle. She was clean before and after Carson’s birth, but relapsed during a bout with depression. Her story is now, sadly, commonplace in the region.
“This is an epidemic in Pennsylvania,” Wendy states. “There are people who need help, who want help and there aren’t enough beds available. These are people who could literally die waiting.”
Wendy has already met with Pennsylvania’s attorney general and several legislators in her quest to raise awareness of what she considers the state’s biggest problem and to advocate for funding for drug and alcohol services in the state’s budget. “We have to do something or an entire generation will be wiped out.”
Though Wendy’s taken on the role of advocate, she says, “I am a mom first. Carson and Kyle are my family and my first priority. Together, with my significant other, and Liz’s father and his wife, we’re doing whatever we can to help keep Kyle clean and safe.” She hopes that her advocacy will help others find their way to addiction recovery before it’s too late.