Black Balloon Day: Families gather at Sunnidale Park to remember loved ones

'I always feel close to him when I'm here'

A Monday morning in Barrie was met with people remembering and honouring loved ones who died from drug overdoses or substance-related harm.

Ryan’s Hope and Moms Stop The Harm acknowledged Black Balloon Day – a nationwide campaign to display black balloons in remembrance of those gone – by holding a gathering at the pavilion at Sunnidale Park.

Black Balloon Day is scheduled for every March 6th, and this year was the third time Christine Nayler, Ryan’s Hope Co-Founder and Director, as well as a Moms Stop The Harm advocate, has hosted it.

“It’s really significant because … people push back the grief that they’re feeling for these types of losses because there’s still so much stigma associated with loss due to substance use and substance-related harms,” Nayler told Barrie 360.

“A lot of times, people grieve in private or they don’t grieve at all. It’s important that we have opportunities for people to come together in community and feel like they’re not alone and they have a community that understands what they’re going through. And where we can honour our loved ones in a safe space and be able to honour all that they were outside of the struggles that they were facing in life.”

Nayler added that the Sunnidale location holds a special meaning to her family – which lost a son, brother, and uncle, to a toxic drug poisoning, and whom the Ryan’s Hope organization is named after.

“For Ryan particularly, he loved Sunnidale Park,” said Nayler. It was a healing place for him and a safe place for him to come. And so, I always feel close to him when I’m here.”

Ryan’s Hope is a non-profit with a mission to advocate for and support people living with mental illness, substance abuse issues, and experiencing homelessness.

Going forward, Nayler says the organization is looking for a new home base.

The space that we have had available to us freely for the last two years is coming to an end at the end of March,” said Nayler. “So, as of March 31st, we will have no space to call our home, our headquarters. As a non-profit organization that’s 100 per cent community supported – receiving no funding – we really are desperately in need of space.”

Nayler asks that if anyone has or knows of space available in Barrie that could be shared, contact her.

Visit their website for more information.

Banner image captured by Barrie 360