The Greenfield native was only 20 years old. Far too young to really branch out into the world to make a real difference capitalizing on her outgoing, vivacious and funny personality. While those who knew her say she was an introvert, she was also introspective, they say.
Her downfall? She was addicted to drugs. A simple sampling of marijuana grew into a thirst for more powerful substances, and the addiction took over..
“Lyndsey was adorable, absolutely gorgeous and she could have done anything she wanted had she not gotten into drugs,” her mother, Tonjia Hullinger Denney, said.
Lyndsey’s life will be recognized this weekend, Saturday, Sept. 26, during the sixth annual Recovery Walk. The fundraising event takes place starting in the Hancock County Courthouse Plaza. Registration for the walk starts around 8:30 a.m, with opening ceremonies at 10 a.m. The walk is set for 10:30 a.m.
The event is put together by The Landing Place, 18 W. South Street, Greenfield. The nonprofit, founded in 2013, provides a safe place to give at-risk teens hope and real-life strategies and principles to get their lives on track.
Struggling when her own daughter suffered from substance abuse, Linda Ostewig was instrumental in opening The Landing Place. She wanted to provide a safe and supportive environment for young people and created a “coffee house” atmosphere that includes no-cost programming to help teens with their hurts, habits and hang-ups.
Every Wednesday, the doors open and a dinner takes place at 6 p.m. Each week, the students get to hear a lesson or testimony and then take part in small groups to work on individual issues. They also offer a 24-hour Crisis Intervention Hotline, a family support group and individual counseling services.
The Landing Place has a partnership with the Talitha Koum Women’s Recovery House, where woman who are recovering from addiction can stay. That’s where officials first met Lyndsey.
“She came to us when she was 19 and was with us for 90 days, and she turned 20 when she was in the house,” Ostewig said. “We got really close to her.”
Officials there wanted Lyndsey to stay longer than the slated 90 days, and so did her parents. But after the court-mandated heroin protocol was completed, she was allowed to leave.
“While she was there she worked to get better, but she really needed to stay longer, but she wanted to leave,” Ostewig said. “When we heard we’d lost her to an overdose, it was devastating.”
Prosecutor Brent Eaton keeps people like Lyndsey in mind when he thinks about the importance of recovery programs and events like the Recovery Walk that support them. Eaton, who has served on the board of The Landing Place for the past five years, believes they are making a difference.
“Because in large part young people who are without community support or hope are more likely to succumb to addiction and substance abuse,” Eaton said. “People that are hopeful for the future with solid support networks are less likely to engage in that type of behavior.”
Eaton cited a letter from a teen who has spent time at The Landing Place who thanked the board for caring.
“It’s heartbreaking to see so many needing help,” the teen wrote, “but, I’m so glad to be a part of something so amazing. I appreciate every single thing you guys do for us.”
Eaton believes the Recovery Walk, along with drug court, heroin protocol and the relationships the county has with Progress House and Dove House — other recovery houses in the area — have made a substantial difference in the community.
“Collectively, they have had the effect of recognizing that while substance abuse is and remains the primary driver of criminal behavior, treatment for substance abuse can be effective creating a safer community,” Eaton said.
While Lyndsey’s mom thinks the county programs being offered to troubled teens are helpful, she doesn’t feel 90 days is enough time for the treatment program. Denney would love to see a larger commitment from county officials to help addicts.
“I think the courts should mandate a year,” Denney said. “Lyndsey could have recovered if she just would have had more time.”
Denney’s daughter, like many addicts, struggled when she became sober, refusing to give up her past life and the friends associated with her drug issues, her mother said.
“I don’t think she was getting the true mental help she needed,” Denney said.
Ostewig noted county programs are helping addicts and they’ve come a long way, but there is more to do. The Recovery Walk is one of the things that can bring awareness to the issue, and that’s key, she said, in combating addiction.
“We’re fortunate our law enforcement and county officials are on board and see the need,” Ostewig said. “I see us growing, but we always seem to lose a life, and that’s the sobering part.”
Leaders said everyone is invited to Saturday’s event, even those who can’t afford to pay to take part in the walk. There will be informational booths and officials on hand to help families seeking information on addiction. Judge Scott Sirk, who oversees the county’s drug court program, is slated to speak. Plus, community members will have a chance to plunge Eaton into a dunk tank.