King’s Crusade Honors Victim of the Opioid Epidemic

This week I welcome Suzanne Harrison, Anne Gutos and Judy DiGiacomo to the blog to discuss the mission of King’s Crusade, which they founded following the overdose death of Suzanne and Anne’s brother and Judy’s son, King Shaffer, in 2016.

King was one of approximately 2,000 New Jerseyans to die of an opioid overdose that year. King’s Crusade helps provide assistance for those with limited resources seeking treatment. Suzanne, Anne and Judy’s powerful story is an example of the pain this epidemic has inflicted upon families and communities.

I also recently joined Steve Adubato on “State of Affairs,” along with Assistant Special Agent in Charge Christopher Jakim of the Drug Enforcement Administration – New Jersey Division, to discuss progress made in fighting the opioid crisis. The show will air today at 5:30 p.m. on WHYY and Friday at 4:30 p.m. on FiOS 1 New Jersey. It can also be viewed HERE.

By Suzanne Harrison, Anne Gutos and Judy DiGiacomo

He was born King W. Shaffer on Dec. 7, 1966, and even as a baby, he was a fighter. In the first days of his life, King’s mom was told he wasn’t going to make it through the night. He proved them wrong.

In his school days, he was teased over his name – even by his teachers. He learned to navigate through it despite having several learning disabilities.

He was a typical if not “mischievous” adolescent who was disciplined with old school ways – by a male figure with a leather belt. He took it.

He enrolled in the Navy in San Diego California and advanced to the Coronado Naval Base as a Navy SEAL in training – he passed “hell week.”

King was a fighter – a crusader in his “first life” we were told – but in this life, his battle with addiction was not to be won.

In 1996, King broke his back on a wave runner and was knocked unconscious. He was later airlifted to a hospital where he was then prescribed Percocet.

Having a genetic predisposition to addiction and enjoying the mere relief he got from the pain medication, he stayed on the Percocet and eventually was transitioned to OxyContin.

After a nine-year battle with pain pills, King turned to heroin – a cheaper option with a feeling of happiness that he never wanted to be without ever again. Detoxes, hospital stays, rehabs, eviction, loss of driver’s license, loss of custody of two children, motels, sober homes and more – it wasn’t enough to stop for any length of time.

But we never stopped fighting for him or with him – ever.

Until October 29, 2016.

King was 30 days clean and set to go to a rehab in Florida on Nov. 2, 2016. In our hearts, we felt King didn’t want to go because he loved his family and didn’t want to leave us. He didn’t have many choices though being that he was living with his sister, Anne, and her family at the time while Anne kept close watch over him all of those 30 days.

He found a way though, on October 28, to purchase three bags of heroin for one “last hurrah” (or so we felt this). King didn’t make it past the first bag and was found unresponsive by Anne on that one brisk but sunny, fall morning.

Our beloved brother and son was gone forever.

Our mission is to help provide resources and assistance for those seeking treatment who are indigent or have limited insurance. We raise funds to provide financial assistance to those seeking sober living and needing food, toiletries or any basic need. We provide fellowship to those in the sober homes and transportation to treatment for those who don’t have a way there.

We are King’s Crusade.

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