“I can say unequivocally there is heroin use in Unionville High School.”
Those words from Chuck Gaza, the Chief of Staff in the Chester County District Attorney’s office, shocked some of the parents in attendance at the Kacie’s Cause town hall event held at the high school Jan. 16.
“I hope that isn’t a surprise to anyone and if it is, take some time to educate yourself,” Gaza said. “No one wants to believe it’s there. No one wants to believe their child could do it.”
Such was the case for Andy Rumford, who lost his daughter, Kacie.
At just 23-years-old, Kacie died of a heroin overdose in her bedroom March 12, 2013. Immediately following that tragic day, Rumford wanted to bring awareness to others of the potential for it to strike anyone’s family.
“Heroin is a horrific drug and will kill again,” Rumford said in his speech to the audience. “It doesn’t discriminate. Don’t think this can’t happen to your family.”
Kacie’s Cause started immediately after her death with the website up and running before she was laid to rest and now, 10 months later, the site has over 17,000 hits.
Rumford was out to end the ignorance of the constantly growing heroin problem and to help him in the cause is Kacie’s team, made up of 14 core members, and its three chapters in Honey Brook, Oxford and Parkesburg.
“To spread this heroin message, Kacie would have given her life – and she did,” Rumford said. “She was that special of a young woman … No parent should have to bury their child or write their obituary or pick out the color of their coffin or the clothes to bury them in.”
In attendance in the packed large group room were parents, students, recovering drug and alcohol addicts, law enforcement, public officials and school administrators from more than just Unionville.
The even began with a video presentation of Kacie from her childhood up until her death and during that time of less than five minutes, Gaza, who was the on-call county District Attorney for the evening, received two texts regarding drug-related incidents.
“There was one 25-year-old who died of an overdose in West Sadsbury while this was going on and a 25-year-old girl who just lost her right arm who had opioids in her system when she wrecked her car,” he said. “This is constant and ongoing. It happens all the time.”
In 2013, Chester County had 31 deaths from prescription overdoses and 21 from heroin, said Gaza.
With Philadelphia and Wilmington being places to easily buy heroin at a cheap price, it has become the fastest growing drug in the area.
“The amount of drugs going through this county would astonish you,” Gaza said. “You can buy 12 bundles of heroin for $20 to $30. It’s very cheap and very easy to get … You can mix it with things and smoke it, snort it, [or] shoot it.”
The idea being pushed in the meeting was for parents to pay attention to their children and never turn a blind eye or else their child may become another victim in the war against drugs.
“Thoughts of … ‘this will never happen to my child, my son or daughter – they’re a star athlete, cheerleader or scholar,’ – those thoughts are dead, and I mean potentially dead, wrong,” Rumford said. “Change your thinking or you could be burying your child.”
The Rumford family is continuing to find ways to live out each day, having now gone through the first holiday season without Kacie.
“Every day, I visit her crypt in the late afternoon to cry with her, talk with her and be close with her,” Rumford said. “A beautiful, intelligent young woman – my daughter – gave her life unknowingly to assist others.”
His hope, and that of his family and the members of Kacie’s Cause, is to somehow reach other parents and family members to do something and make sure they never have to go through the same tragedy.
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter,” Rumford said. “Now is the time to speak up and take action. Together in numbers, we all can make a difference.”