A young South Jersey boy dealing with the loss of his father is lending a huge helping hand to victims of the opioid epidemic.
It was a year ago when Trae Cole’s father died after battling a drug addiction Now the 11-year-old boy is turning his tragedy into triumph by making it his mission to help others who are struggling with substance abuse. On Sunday Cole handed out 50 backpacks to residents at the Oxford House-Jarvis, a recovery house in Sicklerville, New Jersey.
“I spent my time after sports collecting money and backpacks,” Cole said.
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Each backpack contains a hand-stitched patch with the name of someone who lost their battle with addiction as well as their story.
“For him to do this for somebody after losing his father and not having his mother around and can be selfless like that, it warms my heart,” said Tina Cole, Trae’s grandmother.
The backpacks also contain care packages with toiletries and other items.
“A lot of people that move into our houses don’t have anything,” said George Chewkaaes, who works at the Oxford House. “So it’s a real nice gesture.”
For those struggling with the disease of addiction, Trae’s gifts were much more than just material items however.
“The amount of hope it gives the rest of us guys like me. Because I’ve got kids too,” said Carl Harris, one of the Oxford House residents. “This is the first time I’ve ever experienced anything like this. And it just really choked me up.”
Trae’s effort won’t stop now. He plans on giving out as many backpacks he can to make sure that those who lost their lives in the midst of the nationwide drug epidemic, including his father, will never be forgotten.
“I will keep this for the rest of my life and I will cherish it,” another Oxford resident told the boy. “Your father’s memory will not only be with you but it will be with me as well.”