ASHEBORO, N.C. (WGHP) — Susan Hunt’s son, Keaton, loved experiencing life. As a young kid, he was an avid reader, a SCUBA diver, a class clown and even registered to be an organ donor, but the challenges of being a teenager led him down a dark road.
He started by trying marijuana when he was 15, and his use evolved to black tar heroin. He was only 20 years old when he overdosed on fentanyl.
Susan wasn’t going to let the tragic end of her son’s life define his memory. Even in rehab, he was leading prayers. Like her, Keaton was always helpful and looked out for others, so she put her grief to work, starting Keaton’s Place.
Her approach is three-pronged, addressing the before-during-after stages of an addict’s decision to seek help. And all services offered are free.
“Everything we do is free,” Susan said. “We can take you. We can take you to detox. We can take you to rehab.”
Before: Susan talks to church groups, D.A.R.E. groups and schools, urging parents to pay attention and take charge.
“The parents are so scared that they’re not going to be friends with their kids or their kids are going to be mad at them,” Susan said.
During: Keaton’s Place offers classes in Spanish and English for AA and NA. They also have Al-Anon meetings, DUI awareness and Women In Recovery classes.
Keaton’s Place has arranged for shelter and food to feed homeless members of her community (who are some of the most affected by addiction) when temperatures dipped into the 20s. There are also stations set up with snacks, water and Narcan, all free to whoever needs it.
As soon as someone comes to her for help getting into detox and rehab, Susan is on the phone. She identifies facilities and sets up transportation to get them help, and she checks in on their progress
After: Her next project is tackling the daunting challenges between detox and rehab. A person may have four to five days to wait between the two services, and that’s a dangerous time for relapse or overdose.
“What we’re trying to do is make this transitional housing here in Asheboro to hold them in a safe and sober environment until a place opens up,” Susan said. “Then we can take one of our vans, pick them straight up from the house, take them to recovery.”
Once out of recovery, the person can return to the transitional house to mentor new residents and learn life skills to get back into society, sober.
Reminders of Keaton’s loving spirit continue to propel Susan to keep trying to save people from addiction through Keaton’s Place. One such reminder is Kathy Matthews, who received Keaton’s liver and one of his kidneys. She is also an active volunteer and AA meeting leader at Keaton’s Place, and it was she who nominated Susan as one of our most Remarkable Women.
Susan is humble and completely focused on keeping her son’s story from happening to anyone else.
“My whole goal,” Susan said, “is to make him proud of me.”