September 24, 2020

By CODY STEEVES
A tragedy has inspired a local mother and her son’s friend to take a different approach on the war on drugs.
On April 12, 2013, Christine Padaric said goodbye to her son for the last time due to a single mistake. That same day with the help of a local teen, she started an online petition to name Wellesley Skate Park in her son’s honour.
Padaric’s son, Austin, was just 17 when he abused and overdosed on hydromorphone at a party. Hydromorphone is a prescription drug for pain relief and acts as an opiate that is approximately eight times stronger than morphine.
This year approximately 47,000 Canadians’ death will be related to substance abuse.
Wellesley Township has been in the process of constructing a skate park for teens after a proposal in early 2012. Trevor Olender, a local teen, is working with Padaric to get that park named after Austin. He meets with community groups to gain support for the change and wants the name to be AMP, the initials of Padaric’s son.
Olender wants to ensure he has as much support as possible before he approaches the Wellesley Township Council again, after having doubts surface after the previous council meeting in July.
“The big resistance I’ve had is the change aspect,” Olender said. “(I’m) trying to open their eyes and see that change is a good thing in some cases.”
Wellesley has never named a location after a person. Naming the skate park after Austin is seen as rather trivial, according to Olender, and thus has been a slow process.
S.K.A.T.E (Stop Kids Abusing Through Education) for Austin is Padaric’s not-for-profit organization that is trying to raise awareness of drug abuse and the symptoms of overdosing. Padaric founded S.K.A.T.E after she started being interviewed by local media. She said she couldn’t stay quiet anymore, she had to talk about the issue.
Austin inherited much of his personal belief from the skateboarding community. Share, make friends and be dedicated.
Padaric has been taking active measures to deliver her message and the message is clear, education regarding drugs needs to change.
“It’s all about awareness,” Padaric said. “Giving kids information and creating opportunities to talk about this.”
Elmira District Secondary School is the first to agree to promote Padaric’s message. As of next year they plan to incorporate how to deal with overdoses and what the signs and symptoms are, into the curriculum.
Had Austin been provided with appropriate treatment as soon as he was showing signs of an overdose the chance of him surviving would have increased significantly. However, the other teens at the party were hesitant to call 9-1-1 as they were under the influence and one was the supplier. They instead laid him on his side and waited seven hours before calling an ambulance.
When Padaric talks about her son, she speaks of him as any mother would. Loving, caring and accepting.
“He was a really funny kid, had a really funny sense of humour,” said Padaric. “He was an example of a good kid who made a bad decision.”
Austin at the time had been trying to turn his life around according to Padaric. He had just started to follow the laws of attraction, a theory of philosopher Thomas Troward’s, and he was trying to shape his life around it. When you do good things and think positively only good will come out of it, but when thinking negatively and doing bad things only negativity will occur.
“He was always positive. He could have the roughest day and he could come to the skate park and if you were having a rough day he would say, ‘Oh, let’s go skate it off,’” Olender said. “The whole room could be at each other’s throats and as soon as he walks in everything relaxes.”
A tragedy that would haunt anyone close to the person involved, Padaric and Olender have found a purpose amongst the sorrow.
“Life is just so valuable and when you lose (someone) you recognize it. When something happens that you know could have been prevented, it is just that much more devastating,” Padaric said. “You can make a change, you just need to be vocal about it.”