FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WFFT) — If you see a black balloon on Juwan Bolden’s porch, it’s in honor of his best friend.
Christopher Juillerat, 23, died last year in a drug-induced homicide, overdosing on pills he didn’t know were laced with Fentanyl.
"It’s a sign to the people we’ve lost. I put my balloon on the porch and if anyone drives by, they might not know what it’s for, but I know that it’s for my friend that I lost. His soul floats away," Bolden said.
Teresea Juillerat was already a member of victims advocacy group JAVA when her son Chris died. She hopes these balloons can reach people silently facing similar battles.
"We hope that by other people who maybe aren’t aware of this situation, that they just notice the black balloons, ask questions about the black balloons, and give us the opportunity to share with them who we are and what we stand for and hopefully save some lives,” Juillerat said.
JAVA hopes that by seeing these balloons throughout neighborhoods, people will be encouraged to open up the dialogue about the stigma around mental health and drug addiction.
"It’s nothing creating too big of a scene but it’s also a way of saying, I see you, I love you, and I recognize your struggle," Bolden said.
A struggle Bolden had hardly considered, until it was too late for his friend.
"Similar interviews could have been on for years and years and I would have never known until I’m here.," Bolden said. "It’s never you until it’s you. Just keep your eyes open and be aware. Anyone else’s struggle could be potentially your struggle at any given moment. We’re not immune.
JAVA says they have handed out roughly 75 balloons since the start of the week.
To get a black balloon for your home, visit JAVA's Facebook page.
To participate in a virtual balloon release on social media, visit overdoselifeline.org.