Two women who have spent the better part of the last 20 months raising awareness for drug addiction and treatment were recently honored by Attorney General Josh Stein’s Dogwood Award. 

Vanessa Sapp and Cindy Patane both lost a son to overdoses on April 7, 2016: Jason “Wes” Sapp and Matt Eyster. 

“It still feels like yesterday,” Patane wrote in an email to The Daily News. “The events of that morning are still very vivid to me. Many days I want to just give up the fight and be left to quietly grieve my son.” 

But she doesn’t, and neither does Sapp. 

Since the boys’ deaths their mothers have created Sneads Ferry’s Heroin Opiate Prevention Education, or HOPE, which strives for prevention, treatment and support for those struggling with addiction or those who love someone struggling with addiction. 

The two have also spoken at numerous events and worked one-on-one with people who are now facing what they, their families, and their sons faced not so long ago. 

For these reasons and more, Sapp and Patane were given the Dogwood Award, which honors “North Carolinians who are dedicated to keeping people safe, healthy and happy in their communities,” according to a press release.

When Sapp first got the call, she had mixed emotions. 

“I remember calling my husband and telling him that this should be a community award because everything we have accomplished through Sneads Ferry's H.O.P.E has only been possible through citizens, organizations and leaders in our community all working together for a common cause,” Sapp wrote in an email to The Daily News. 

A friend reminded Sapp that without the fire she and Patane lit under the community, there would be no award to be given. As such, Sapp said she accepted the award on behalf of the community. 

Stein is quoted in the press release as saying he’s honored to highlight Patane and Sapp’s work, to celebrate their ideas and remind people to continue to fight for the thousands in North Carolina who are currently struggling. 

Something good has come from the tragedies they’ve faced, Patane wrote. Now people are judging less, and their hearts are more open to the plights of others. 

“This award shows the importance of community and state leaders finally realizing this epidemic needs to be addressed with a multipronged approach that involves community and faith based organizations as well as government officials,” Patane wrote. 

Sapp agreed, saying this award signifies that the state leaders are engaged, they’re aware of the impact the opioid crisis is having on North Carolina, and they’re ready to fight it alongside the community members who have their boots on the ground. 

Most importantly, Patane wrote, people are coming to H.O.P.E. for help – and they’ve been able to give it. Receiving the Dogwood Award validates their efforts, Patane continued, including those of others involved with H.O.P.E. 

Patane’s purpose has always been to have others realize that someone addicted to drugs is more than their addiction, she wrote. They’re people, people loved by their families, and they need support more than judgement. 

“Cindy and I always say, just when we start to get discouraged, something significant happens,” Sapp wrote. “Receiving this award reminded me that we are not alone in this fight and it gives me the energy to keep fighting!”

  

Reporter Amanda Thames can be reached at 910-219-8467 or Amanda.Thames@JDNews.com