Alex Wilkinson and Preston Pearce both had infectious smiles, lots of friends and family who deeply loved them. As well, they both graduated from Walnut Grove Secondary.
What the two also had in common, tragically, is that they both died at 19 from a drug overdose.
Family and friends of the two WGSS alumni have made a powerful video that can be seen on Youtube (WGSS Drug Awareness Video – We Are a Community).
In the video, Alex’s younger sister, Grace, speaks about her brother, saying he was always looking after her, was goofy and “the best big brother.”
“I really want to get rid of the stigma (of using drugs) and I really want you to know it’s OK … to come forward and it’s OK to ask for help,” she said.
“Even if this video helps one person, it will be worth it.”
Preston’s mom, Judith, pleads with young people to call 911 immediately if a friend who has used drugs appears sleepy, or looks like they are going to pass out, as was the case with her son.
“Preston’s friends couldn’t wake him up. Best chance of survival is to make the effort to try and wake them up and call 911.”
The video, made by five WGSS Grade 12 students, was played for the entire student body at the end of an assembly last week, during Drug Awareness Week. During that assembly, a young person who recently came through recovery spoke to the students.
Youth care worker Rosemary Davis helped the students put the video together.
When Alex passed away in April, many of his friends were still attending WGSS or had recently graduated from the school like he did.
“A lot of them gathered here to grieve,” she said. Alex played hockey in Langley with a tight-knit group of teens who had suffered a lot of loss in a short amount of time, she said.
As well, the team lost best friends Brendan Wilson and Austin Kingsborough in 2013 when they drowned in a lake near Merritt.
“We, as a school, decided to give them a place to talk about how they were feeling. Out of that, the kids said, ‘We need to let people know what it feels like to lose a friend, a family member. We have to let them know to stop playing with drugs.’”
But the group believes that for the message to hit home, it couldn’t be lecturing or judgmental.
For Rosemary, it has become very personal, she said.
“In the last three years, five young people have died of overdoses,” she said. “I’ve been a youth worker for a long time and I’ve never experienced anything like this.
“We don’t want to go to any more funerals.”