NEWTON, MASS. (WHDH) - On marathon Monday, runners will pass by 2,104 purple flags on display outside Newton-Wellesley Hospital– one for each person who has died of opioid overdose in Massachusetts in the last year.
Antje Barreveld and Catharina Armstrong helped to organize the memorial and will also be running to raise awareness for substance abuse disorder.
“By displaying these flags, in the most prominent part of the hospital, it allows people to feel comfortable to not only talk about addiction but also ask for help,” said.
The two began running together last year and completed one mile for each patient who died of COVID-19.
“When I place a breathing tube in someone who is really struggling with the effects of COVID on their lung system, it’s really quite traumatic,” Barreveld said. “Yet, I feel like I had an opportunity to honor the people who had died, who I tried to help.”
Now, running in the marathon, they say they are able to honor coronavirus patients and raise awareness about substance abuse.
“I feel intimidated by ‘heartbreak hill’ that’s right after this but I think this [display] will make me feel like I can do this,” Armstrong said.
“One of the things that is going to be invigorating but at the same time emotional for me is coming by here, and witnessing the thousands of people that are going to see the purple flags,” Barreveld explained.
The display will be up through Monday.
The purple flag display was originally created by SOAR Natick, an organization formed in 2014 as a support group for parents with children suffering from opioid addiction.
This is the third year the organization has brought the flag display to Newton-Wellesley Hospital as a way to raise awareness for opioid addiction in Massachusetts.
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