A weekend event aims to put a face to addiction.

Benita Thornhill, owner of Coastal Carolina Wellness Connection, is hosting The Power of Prevention: Conversations to Prevent Substance Abuse in Our Communities on Saturday in response to the lives lost this year due to drug overdoses.

“I was just so moved by all the issues with opioid abuse,” Thornhill said.

Those who haven’t experienced addiction are confused about what it means, she said, and she wanted to host a forum to provide a better explanation of what dependence means to those suffering from it.

“It actually rewires their brain,” Thornhill said of addiction.

To offer that understanding, Thornhill asked Vanessa Sapp and Cindy Patane, two mothers whose sons died of overdoses in April, to speak at the event.

Having forums like this help bring problems out of the shadows, Sapp said.

“Sharing our boys’ stories helps others to realize that drugs don’t discriminate, they can touch anyone’s life,” Sapp said. “Awareness is the first step in bringing about change.”

There’s a stigma attached to addiction, Patane said. Some believe it doesn’t touch people with certain jobs or who live on the nicer side of town.

But Patane, a teacher in Onslow County, said telling personal stories makes others realize that addiction can happen in any family.

“Speaking at events like these helps to put a face to the disease,” she said.

Others will speak at the event, Thornhill said, including Tara Pearson who was an addict for 23 years and has been in recovery the past five years.

Thornhill encouraged all to come to the event, especially parents with teenage children or pre-teens. The speakers will discuss warning signs of possible drug use, including mood swings and a change in friends or hobbies.

The event will be held from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday at Northwoods Recreation Center, located at 621 Henderson Drive in Jacksonville.

“I hope, by sharing my son’s story, people see the person behind the tragedy” Sapp said. “Drug overdoses are more than statistics, they affect real people that live within our communities.”