LAPORTE | Tim and Rhonda Geary made the trip from their home in Schererville to LaPorte on Friday hoping their efforts can prevent another parent from losing a child to heroin.
''If it helps one person, it'll do good," said Rhonda Geary, of Schererville.
She and her husband were among the 500 or so people who turned out for a heroin awareness walk that began after 5 p.m. outside the YMCA on Michigan Avenue.
Most of the participants walked, but some ran the one-mile route to Beechwood Municipal Golf Course hoping to make a dent in a heroin problem by drawing attention to it.
Chris and Toni Day, of LaPorte, came up with the idea for the walk.
Their son, Ethan, 20, and his 17-year-old girlfriend died from heroin overdoses June 4 inside his apartment in the 500 block of East Lincolnway.
''I'm hoping this is the beginning for something that can make a difference for some people," Toni Day said.
Julia Geary, 26, died in December 2011 after using heroin for about six years.
After getting out of prison, she completed cosmetology school and stayed clean until she met an old friend "on the streets," Tim Geary said. Julia Geary died a short time later.
The Gearys learned about the walk on Facebook and, like the other participants, came out to try and lend a hand in reducing what many believe has been a heroin epidemic for the past several years.
The Days had reason to suspect their son might be using heroin and confronted him.
Each time he denied being a user, and he was convincing enough the Days reluctantly took his word for it.
''It's not something obvious like you would think it is. These kids can be very convincing they're straight, but they're really not,'' said Toni Day, who advised parents to go as far as drug testing their children to prevent a tragedy in their lives.
''If our story can make a difference for one person, then it'll be worth it,'' she said.
Brad Francis and Devin Weiss, both 17 and of LaPorte, have known people who died from using heroin.
Weiss said users first try heroin to escape depression brought on by various things such as an unhappy home life or being made fun of at school.
He said the most effective part of the walk is that it should touch hearts of users who need to know they are not forgotten.
"'I hope it will open people's eyes that there are so many people that care about you, that they don't want you to do it," Weiss said.
Mayor Blair Milo said the real impact is made when each individual reaches out to a family member, friend or even a stranger who's going through a difficult period.
'"Being able to reach out and try and assist one another — that's really where I think we're making a difference as a community," Milo said.