Using shoes and sneakers to symbolize those lost to addiction

Sep 22, 2017

Using shoes to symbolize the loss the Rochester area has been feeling from opiate addiction. That was the purpose of an event held Friday at the Liberty Pole.

Credit Randy Gorbman / WXXI News

It’s not so much the shoes and sneakers that were lined up along the pavement near the Liberty Pole, but who had once been inside them that’s important; that’s how the organizers of the event felt when they came up with the idea to have people who have lost loved ones to overdose from heroin and other drugs donate the footwear their friends and family members used to wear.

That especially hits home for Becky Baker. The Pittsford woman heads up one of the grassroots groups that organized the display. She also brought sneakers that her son Scotty wore. He died at the age of 27 earlier this year.

“February 22nd he overdosed on fentanyl. I made a promise to him that I would do anything I can to help save other kids, because there’s so many of them dying in the streets.” Baker told WXXI News.

Carlee Hulsizer is also with a grassroots group trying to fight opiate addiction. She says she’s dealt with her own drug abuse.

Sneakers that belonged to Scotty Baker, who died of an overdose at 27.
Credit Randy Gorbman / WXXI News

“I’m a person in long term recovery and I think it’s important that we show the public this is what empty shoes look like, these were once shoes that were filled with a human being that lost their life to this disease.”

Ashley Gnau is clean now, but she battled heroin addiction for 13 years, and she hopes the Liberty Pole event gets at least a few people thinking about how they can help.

“I don’t think people realize how many lives this disease has taken, and I feel like if people can see then maybe they’ll understand a little bit more that it’s a disease, it takes a lot of people’s lives and we lose somebody every day."

Some of those at the Liberty Pole event also believe the heroin problem locally is even worse than recently released numbers would indicate.