Jodi Barber and Christine Brant have something in common, but it's not where they go to get their hair coiffed or grab a meal. The women want to put a halt to local teens abusing and overdosing on prescription pills.
They are hoping to get the message out via a documentary about what Barber says is "a growing epidemic not only in Laguna Niguel, but throughout all of Orange County."
And they are off to a good start, Barber says.
On May 16, the women held the first of two fundraisers at , where more than 150 people showed up, and raised $2,820. Another will take place this week through Wednesday, also at the family-style restaurant. Mention Barber and Brant's documentary project and 30 percent of all purchases will go toward their efforts.
"I know a lot of these kids because I've helped them with their own situations," Barber said. "I spend a lot of my time talking to kids about what happened to us and encouraging them to get help."
She lost her son Jarrod, 19, on Jan. 8, 2010.
The two mothers came up with idea for their project while discussing what they could do locally to try to stop the increase in prescription-pill related overdoses, Barber said. Brant—who has four healthy kids of her own—was inspired to contact Barber after seeing a poster of local teens and young adults—including Jarrod—who recently died from prescription overdoses.
Jarrod was a graduate of . Since his death, Barber has been on a crusade to get the word out, hoping to spare other families the pain she's endured.
Barber treats the crusade as a full-time job, working closely with community members and local teens who are affected by drug abuse. Many of the attendees at the first fundraiser were teenagers who greeted Barber by her first name and with hugs and high-fives.
She is often called to speak at memorials and has spoken to students at Aliso Niguel High School about the topic.
Their documentary will feature many local kids who have lost their friends, some parents who lost a child to prescription overdoses, as well as siblings who are dealing with their devastating losses.
Brant and Barber intend to distribute the documentary to as many schools across the nation as possible.
The second documentary called, Behind the Orange Curtain, will be a short film that will delve into the problem of teenage/young adults' prescription pills abuse, Barber said.
"Overdosing is occurring in record numbers, with more than 82 deaths ages 15 to 24 in the last three years in South Orange County," she said.
The documentary will be filmed by Hollywood director Brent Huff and writer-producer Zac Titus. Barber is hopeful that it will make the film festival circuit as well as be picked up by HBO and other television networks. The main story will focus on Jarrod but will also feature Aaron Rubin, who overdosed on Oxycontin in 2005 and nearly died. He was left a quadriplegic, unable to speak and needing 24-hour care.
Sylvia Melkonian, who lost her son, Mark, also to a prescription overdose on May 25, 2010, will be in the film. Mark was a junior at
Filming will begin this Wednesday at Barber's house.
Last week's fundraiser attracted so much attention that Ballpark Pizza ran out of pizza dough. Barber and Brant say they are hoping for the same success this week.