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'I know the loss, I know the stigma': In memory of son, Iowa mother raises awareness about overdose

Ann Breeding lost her son, Daniel Bailey, in November 2020. Bailey struggled for 12 years with addiction.

DES MOINES, Iowa — Seven-year-old Amery Bailey likes to sit in a garden in her backyard to spend time with her dad. While her father, Daniel Bailey, isn't physically with her, sitting in his memorial garden, she says it feels like he is.

"We wanted it to be memorable," said Amery. "That tree back there that tree we got for my dad, and we call it my dad’s tree. And it makes us happy"

Daniel Bailey lost his battle with drug addiction in November 2020, dying of an overdose. Young Amery remembers him as a loving father.

"He’d always help me when I got hurt and he was always there for me no matter what," she said.

Daniel's mother, Ann Breeding, remembers his loving soul.

"[He] had the biggest heart, did not judge people," said Ann. "He preferred the down and out, he wanted to help them. He wanted to get them on their feet."

She added, "He loved his daughter. He loved his daughter more than anything ever in the whole world."

Amery now lives with Ann. Together, through their shared pain, they work to raise awareness about Iowans struggling with addiction.

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"I know the pain, I know the loss, I know the stigma," said Ann. "And I want to take my pain and pour it into awareness to advocate...to educate. To tell everybody that the stigma has to stop because you’re preventing people from getting the help they need. Myself included, my son included."

Credit: Ann Breeding

In the month of August, National Overdose Awareness Month, Ann decked out her front lawn with 134 purple pinwheels.

"Every pinwheel stands for one person that we lost in the year of 2020 for Polk County alone," said Ann. "Everybody is somebody’s someone. Everybody has a story. They’re not just substance users. They have a family that loves them."

It's a message she took to the statehouse Tuesday. Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a proclamation designating August 31 as Overdose Awareness Day in Iowa. Daniel's name was listed in the proclamation.

"It means everything," Ann said, through tears.

Ann says this is only the beginning. She plans to hold an awareness walk every year on May 20, Daniel's birthday.

"The more we walk, the more awareness there is," she said. "We're all in this together."

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