There is nothing more painful or devasting than the death of a child. When Charlie Ternan died last spring at age 22, just three weeks shy of his college graduation, from fentanyl poisoning it devasted his family and the community. The pill he got online turned out to be a fake painkiller made of the dangerous opioid a fentapill. Since Charlie’s death, his parents, Mary and Ed Ternan have been researching fake pills and fentanyl and have formed a nonprofit, Song For Charlie dedicated to warning young people about this growing danger.
Mary and Ed envision a future in which the casual use of prescription pills is considered socially unacceptable, and in which sharing random pills is uncool. They are working to change the ‘quick fix’ mindset of self-medication in favor of more organic and sustainable strategies for managing stress and anxiety. To accomplish these goals, Song for Charlie seeks to break through the noise and communicate with young people on their terms – to go where they are; speak their language, and get them talking about the danger of online pills.
Here are a few highlights from today’s episode:
Charity Matters: Tell us a little about Song For Charlie?
Ed Ternan: Song for Charlie is an organization that we started after our youngest son died in May of 2020 of fentanyl poisoning, and we found ourselves thrown into an issue that we’d never even heard about. Charlie died after taking what he thought was a legitimate prescription medication. The mistake he made was he went online and got a Percocet pill. And it turned out that it wasn’t Percocet. It was a counterfeit pill made of fentanyl. So we had the double whammy shock finding that our son had died and we couldn’t figure out how. And very quickly like the next morning, we’re told by law enforcement we suspect fentanyl. Then the question was, well, what is fentanyl? What’s going on here?
Charity Matters: When did you decide to start the organization?
Ed Ternan: When we dug into the problem and went online, we very quickly became members of this club. And it’s not only the grieving parents club but then it’s parents like us, who are literally shell shocked to find out that their kid died from something that they didn’t even know was out there.
Then we had identified this kind of information gap so we thought, okay, is there something we can do? It’s a little bit of that feeling of, you know, if not us then who? So we started networking a little bit and thought, you know, maybe we can add some value here. Maybe there’s something we can do.
Charity Matters: What fuels you to keep doing this work?
Mary Ternan: Charlie and helping others to save lives.
Charity Matters: What life lessons have you learned from this experience?
Mary Ternan: This is what we’re supposed to do. To share our love and care for others and take care of ourselves and be very caring to ourselves and listen to our intuition and our hearts and souls of what we need to do every day. You know you can change from day to day but the most important thing is just walking, walking the walk.
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