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Belchertown teen remembered at recovery support event

  • Amherst Fire Department Capt. Dave Holmes of Belchertown, dressed in full turnout gear, and his wife, Sheryl, wearing their son's #55 Belchertown High School football jersey, lead the 1-mile walk during the third annual SOAAR 5K and Music Festival held on the Belchertown Common on Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018. The event benefits Honest Beginnings, a sober living environment, and Speaking Out About Addiction and Recovery, a recovery and family support program. The Holmes' lost their son Caleb, a 2016 BHS graduate, to opioid addiction at the age of 19. —STAFF PHOTO / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Baby Driver lead singer Geoff Gould, right, and Laura Vachet sing an original song during the group's set at the third annual SOAAR 5K and Music Festival held on the Belchertown Common on Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018. The event benefits Honest Beginnings, a sober living environment, and Speaking Out About Addiction and Recovery, a recovery and family support program. —STAFF PHOTO / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Amherst Fire Capt. David Holmes and his wife, Sheryl, of Belchertown talk about the loss of their son, Caleb, 19, to addiction. The pair lead the 1-mile walk at the third annual SOAAR 5K and Music Festival held on the Belchertown Common on Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018. The event benefits Honest Beginnings, a sober living environment, and Speaking Out About Addiction and Recovery, a recovery and family support program. —STAFF PHOTO / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Amherst Fire Capt. David Holmes and his wife, Sheryl, of Belchertown talk about the loss of their son, Caleb, 19, to addiction. The pair lead the 1-mile walk at the third annual SOAAR 5K and Music Festival held on the Belchertown Common on Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018. The event benefits Honest Beginnings, a sober living environment, and Speaking Out About Addiction and Recovery, a recovery and family support program. —STAFF PHOTO / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Amherst Fire Capt. David Holmes and his wife, Sheryl, of Belchertown talk about the loss of their son, Caleb, 19, to addiction. The pair lead the 1-mile walk at the third annual SOAAR 5K and Music Festival held on the Belchertown Common on Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018. The event benefits Honest Beginnings, a sober living environment, and Speaking Out About Addiction and Recovery, a recovery and family support program. —STAFF PHOTO / KEVIN GUTTING

  • The 5K race of the third annual SOAAR 5K and Music Festival starts on Park Street at the Belchertown Common on Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018. The event benefits Honest Beginnings, a sober living environment, and Speaking Out About Addiction and Recovery, a recovery and family support program. —STAFF PHOTO / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Amherst Fire Department Capt. Dave Holmes takes off his oxygen mask after leading a 1-mile walk in full turnout gear with his wife, Sheryl, left, during the third annual SOAAR 5K and Music Festival held on the Belchertown Common on Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018. The event benefits Honest Beginnings, a sober living environment, and Speaking Out About Addiction and Recovery, a recovery and family support program. —STAFF PHOTO / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Sheryl Holmes of Belchertown talks about the loss of her son Caleb to addiction in May at the age of 19. She spoke during the third annual SOAAR 5K and Music Festival held on the Belchertown Common on Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018. The event benefits Honest Beginnings, a sober living environment, and Speaking Out About Addiction and Recovery, a recovery and family support program. —STAFF PHOTO / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Amherst Fire Department Capt. Dave Holmes, dressed in full turn-out gear, and his wife, Sheryl, wearing their son's football jersey, lead the 1-mile walk during the third annual SOAAR 5K and Music Festival held on the Belchertown Common on Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018. The event benefits Honest Beginnings, a sober living environment, and Speaking Out About Addiction and Recovery, a recovery and family support program. —STAFF PHOTO / KEVIN GUTTING



Staff Writer
Monday, September 10, 2018

BELCHERTOWN — “He was my best friend,” Jess Cloutier, 20, said.

“An above-average person,” Lauren LaBoursoliere, 21, said.

“He was a good kid, a good role model for kids in school,” Edward Wyzik, the Belchertown High School football coach, said.

“We are just so touched and moved by learning about how our son’s life touched others,” Sheryl Holmes said about her son, Caleb, who died on May 27 at the age of 19. He was a BHS Class of 2016 graduate.

“The friendships he made and the examples that he set for others, even as he was dealing with his own issues, was very touching,” Sheryl Holmes said.

She wore her son’s Belchertown High School football jersey with the number 55 at a 5K and music festival on Saturday at the town’s common. The third annual event was hosted by Speaking Out About Addiction & Recovery (SOAAR) and Honest Beginnings, two organizations that partner to provide resources for those suffering with addiction.

Caleb’s family, teammates on the football team, and members of the community gathered on the green for the event to show support for those struggling with all types of addiction, from opioids to alcoholism. Many spoke of Caleb’s character as supportive, caring, and compassionate.

“He was a source of inspiration,” Curtis Walther, a junior at BHS and football team member, said.

“A hell of a lineman, and a good kid,” Daniel Perry, a BHS football coach, said.

David Holmes, Caleb’s father, is the fire captain for the Amherst call force and he wore his firefighter’s turnout gear to represent the burden carried by those who suffer from addiction, he said.

After more than 100 of the 5K runners took off for the race, Holmes led a mile-long walk around the common. Nearly 90 members of the football team and members of the community stood behind David and Sheryl Holmes as they began the walk hand in hand.

“My gear is to protect me. People struggling with addiction don’t have that many forms of protection,” David Holmes said, drenched in sweat after the walk, adding that he felt “invigorated.”

He and Sheryl have been dealing with grief since Caleb died, he said. Even though it is a personal struggle with grief, he said, they do not feel alone.

Sheryl Holmes spoke about the stigma that surrounds those fighting addiction, and how it was hard to talk about it with other people in the middle of Caleb’s struggle. She said there is a fear that sometimes keeps people from seeking out the resources and support they need.

“This is a big part of making people aware that addiction is a problem. It’s in our backyards and in our neighborhoods,” she said. “This is all about drawing the community in and being able to hear the stories and hear that addiction does not discriminate. It doesn’t matter where you are from, how old you are, what background you have. Addiction hits everyone.”

Belchertown mothers concerned with how the nation’s opioid epidemic has impacted the town banded together to form SOAAR in 2015.

Jill Panto, a co-founder of the group, said that “being part of a community of compassion of love is a huge help to sustained recovery.”

SOAAR offers support and empowerment groups as well as resources for families who are struggling with the effects of addiction.

“It’s a very isolating situation for parents or family members to know who to turn to. It’s difficult to admit you have this going on in your life, which is what led us to creating this group,” Panto said. “The isolation that is caused by someone struggling with addiction in the family is painful.”

Cloutier played on the football team with Caleb, and she said he gave the team a lot of “encouragement and spirit.”

“He was definitely the life of the show there,” she said. “He pumped them up and I would definitely give him the credit for a lot of the wins.”

“He just always wanted to make people laugh,” LaBoursoliere said.

Luis Fieldman can be reached at lfieldman@gazettenet.com