Sharing Hope


September 2, 2021

In the past five years, 75 people

have died from drug overdoses

in Mason County.

Their lives were noted with 75

purple pinwheels, photos of loved

ones and signs of hope as about

80 people marched Tuesday in

the fifth annual Overdose Awareness

Walk from Shelton’s Kneeland

Park to downtown’s West

Railroad Avenue and back. The

event was part of an international

Overdose Awareness Day.

Mason County Community

Services hosted the walk in Shelton,

and the third annual walk

Wednesday evening in Belfair.

Abe Gardner, the program coordinator

at Mason County Public

Health, and Jamie Ellertsen,

a drug and alcohol counselor with

Olympic Health and Recovery

Services, organized the marches.

Several of Gardner’s friends

died from drug overdoses,

and he survived an overdose,

he said. One of the goals

of the marches is to provide

hope to families who have lost loved

ones to overdoses, and to people who

are still using drugs, Gardner said.

Also, “We want to halt the stigma,”

he said.

Ellertsen lost her brother to an

overdose in 2012. One in three people

struggle with drug and alcohol problems,

she said.

“There’s help out there,” she said.

Anyone struggling with drugs can

call Gardner at 360-427-9670, ext. 131.

Ellertsen and Gardner spoke to the

crowd at Kneeland Park before the

march toward West Railroad Avenue

began. So did Shelton Police Lt. Mile

Fiola. When he was 10 years old, he

found his mother dead from a drug


“That was the first time I had to

deal with death from addiction,” he


Fiola said people who he once arrested

sometimes tell him their incarceration

was the beginning of the road

to recovery.

Mason County Commissioner Kevin

Shutty also spoke.

“This is a truly important walk in

our community,” he said.

Shutty quoted a Bible verse he said

was on display at his home: “You are

the light of the world. You are the salt

of the earth.”

About 20 people marched five years

ago at the inaugural Shelton walk.

That number blossomed into about

120 two years ago, but the pandemic

reduced the number of participants to

about 15 last year.

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Author Bio

Gordon Weeks, Reporter

Shelton-Mason County Journal & Belfair Herald
[email protected]


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