A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Sobering photos on Black Balloon Day show drug overdose human loss — but reach out with hope


By Judy Clabes
NKyTribune editor

Gabrielle Deaton has been on the wrong side of the heroin epidemic. Now that she’s been sober for eight years, she is determined to help others find their way out of the epidemic that takes far too many lives in our region.

That’s why she started Black Balloon Day in Northern Kentucky.

Black Balloon Day is a national and international event, but Deaton brought it to NKY for the first time last year.

It’s March 6th, and she’s working with 15 people who have suffered loss through drugs to take their photograph with Black Balloons — and often with a picture of their deceased loved ones — as a way to promote awareness of the extent of the problem. And the terrific human cost.

These photos will be shared on social media — so perhaps our readers will share them as widely as possible. They’ll be published on March 6th.

They’ll also be on exhibition at Art Around the Park, 1051 South Fort Thomas Avenue in Fort Thomas at a fundraiser on May 3, 6-9 p.m.

The fundraiser will feature a raffle as well. Donations will go to NKY HATES HEROIN and Hope Shot Photography’s Black Balloon Event.

The project is supported by the Brighton Recovery Center and NKY HATES HEROIN.

Drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S., with over 70,000 lethal drug overdoses in 2017. Americans are more likely to die of an opioid overdose than from a car accident or by guns.

The message is one of hope and recovery, said Deaton.

“We want to reach out to let people know there is a way to get help,” she said.

Deaton does know how important help can be.

She was addicted to heroin, overdosed twice and was saved by Narcan. She spent 13 months at Brighton Center’s Recovery Center and has now been sober for eight years.

Her husband found sobriety at Transition’s Grateful Life Center.

They are now the parents of two young children, 3 and six weeks.

“I know people who have suffered,” Deaton says. “I also know that somebody who nobody thinks will make it can.”

She wants to be part of the solution and she hopes that Black Balloon day will be part of increasing awareness — and spreading hope.


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