Event to remember Albert Lea teen who died from overdose

Published 3:31 pm Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Activities planned for youth ages 12 to 19

As the one-year anniversary of the death of Albert Lea student Manny Chavez approaches, a local group is sponsoring an event at the Albert Lea skate park to remember him and spread a message of love and awareness to youth in the community.

Manny Chavez

Sixteen-year-old Manny died July 26, 2022, from a fatal fentanyl overdose during a two-month period of four other overdoses in the community of youth between 16 and 27.

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In the months after his death and to combat other youth fentanyl use, a group of local religious leaders, licensed drug and alcohol counselors and other community members came together to reach out to other youth in the community, to spread information about the risks of fentanyl and to start a naloxone access point in the community.

George and Jill Marin, pastors of Grace Christian Church, who are part of the group, called the Substance Abuse Frontline Emergency Response Team, said there have also been other outreach events, part of what they have termed “Manny’s Mission” with other youth, the homeless and other individuals both within Albert Lea and throughout other areas.

The Marins said they also drive up to the North Broadway parking lot most evenings to let the youth who are there know that they are loved, seen and appreciated.

“We have to meet them where they’re at,” George Marin said, noting that they want to let the youth know they are important and valued. “We’re striving for human connection.”

The Marins said they hope to talk about the difference Manny’s Mission has already made at the Remembering Manny Skatepark Event July 28. The event, slated to run from 6 to 8 p.m., will have free food and drinks, games, prizes and giveaways for youth ages 12 to 19. All of the prizes have been donated by people who have been supportive of the cause.

Prizes include giveaways such as gift certificates or gift cards to Kwik Trip, B&B Cafe and Domino’s, candy, an electric scooter and others. The first- and second-place winners of a “Living Well” art contest will also be awarded prizes.

George Marin said they hope the event brings connection and conversation with the youth who attend, which will in turn lead to stronger community. A similar event held last year brought out 90 youth and 60 adults to the skate park. Community leaders have also been invited to attend.

While Marins said the effort has already made a difference in the short year since Manny’s death, the issue is still ongoing as youth battle anxiety, depression and effects of social media.

They look forward to returning to the high school and middle school and have started doing once-a-month events at Grace Christian Church. They would also love to see assemblies at school on the issue.

“If we can pull out every stop and reach young people, it sets us up for success,” George Marin said.

They said they also hope the event will let the youth know who attend that there are trusted adults they can turn to in the event they are struggling.

The Albert Lea skate park is right next to City Beach at the intersection of Johnson Street and North Shore Avenue.