‘It can happen to anybody’: B.C. mom commissions mural for daughter lost to overdose

Click to play video: 'Kamloops mother commissions Vancouver street mural to commemorate daughter'
Kamloops mother commissions Vancouver street mural to commemorate daughter
A Kamloops mother has commissioned two well-known street artists to create a mural in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside to commemorate her daughter, who died of an overdose at the age of 23. Kristen Robinson reports – Feb 13, 2024

February 13 would have been Celena Loschiavo’s 29th birthday.

Instead, her face is memorialized on a mural in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, some 350 kilometres away from her family’s home in Kamloops.

“I want to bring awareness that it can happen to anybody,” Loschiavo’s mother Lori Hewson told Global News.

“She had so much life yet,” added her father Peter Loschiavo.

Vancouver street artist Smokey D paints a mural honouring Celena Loschiavo. Global News

Hewson and Loschiavo’s 23-year-old daughter Celena died from an accidental fentanyl overdose in 2018.

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At the time, Celina’s parents said their daughter had a full-time job at Tim Hortons and was attending Thompson Rivers University with dreams of becoming a veterinary assistant.

On April 23, 2018, Hewson said Celena and two friends were on a night out when they took what they believed was cocaine.

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The trio was later found inside a car parked on Salish Road in Kamloops. Celena was deceased while her two male friends were found unresponsive in medical distress. Both men survived.

“She didn’t expect to die that night,” Hewson said. “I didn’t put her in the same boat as those struggling on the Downtown Eastside and it doesn’t matter who you are, fentanyl will kill you.”

Click to play video: 'B.C. breaks record for overdose deaths in 2023'
B.C. breaks record for overdose deaths in 2023

Instead of placing an annual memorial in the local newspaper – and in an effort to raise awareness about the overdose crisis, Hewson asked the Downtown Eastside’s best-known street artist, Jamie Hardy a.k.a. Smokey Devil, to craft a mural in Celena’s honour.

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“I’m honoured for that because I think this way a lot more people will see it,” Smokey Devil told Global News Tuesday.

The mural created by Smokey Devil and fellow street artist Trey Helten in the alley behind 40 West Hastings St., is designed to share a mother’s empathy with other parents of children gone too soon.

It reads “Rest in Peace Celena Loschiavo – sadly missed by everyone.”

More than 13,000 lives have been lost since the province declared a public health emergency in 2016.

Click to play video: 'B.C. family marks one-year anniversary of fatal overdose'
B.C. family marks one-year anniversary of fatal overdose

“Now it’s eight years and it’s not getting better, it’s worse and the numbers are a lot worse now and 2023 was the worst year we’ve ever had,” Smokey Devil said.

“All the alleys across Vancouver could be covered with Smokey memorials for people that have died because the numbers are just so high,” added Helten, who also manages the Vancouver Overdose Prevention Society (OPS).

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“It’s incredibly heart-wrenching and gut-wrenching to just talk to broken families over and over and over again.”

Celena’s parents said it took years for them to share their daughter’s story without feeling shame over how she died.

“This is not a game,” said Peter. “This is some seriously dangerous stuff out there that (is) taking our kids’ lives.”

“You don’t know if you want to share that part of your daughter’s passing with people that don’t understand,” added Hewson.

“I hope this mural touches even one person to not feel shame.”

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