Jamie "Sunshine" Phillips of Valrico was just 10 years old when his 14-year-old brother, Spencer Foster, died after taking a lethal combination of prescription drugs.
Now, five years later, Phillips is a sophomore at Bloomingdale High School where he plays on the football team, wearing a jersey with his brother's name stitched inside.
He's made it his mission to educate middle and high school students about the dangers of prescription drugs. And, heeding that promise made at his brother's grave, Phillips will speak at the sixth annual NOPE (Narcotics Overdose Prevention & Education) Task Force Candlelight Vigil Thursday, Oct. 25 at Joe Chillura Park in downtown Tampa.
The event will begin at 6:30 p.m. with a viewing of the memorial wall filled with photos of those who have died because of alcohol or drugs. The vigil program will begin at 7 p.m. at the park on the corner of Morgan Street and Kennedy Boulevard.
Also scheduled to speak are State Attorney General Pam Bondi and Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin Beckner.
Each year the vigil is held in memory of those who have lost their lives due to drug- and alcohol-related incidents. In Hillsborough County, two to five people die of drug-related overdoses every week.
Phillips never expected his big brother would be part of those statistics.
However, on June 26, 2007, Spencer Foster, a student at Farnell Middle School in West Chase, was found dead in his father's Westchase home. The medical examiner ruled his death an accident. Investigators found Soma, OxyContin and alcohol in his body.
Thursday's vigil will be presented in partnership with the Hillsborough County Commission, Tampa Police, Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, the School District of Hillsborough County and DACCO.
Community leaders, law enforcement officials and anti-drug advocates will light candles, bow their heads in a moment of silence and view a wall and video featuring the stories of teenagers and adults who died of drug poisoning in the community.
They will also listen to Director R. Gil Kerlikowske of The Office of National Drug Control Policy deliver a pre-recorded keynote address on the strategies NOPE Task Force and the federal and state authorities are using to fight back against prescription drug abuse.
For more information about NOPE or the candlelight vigil, visit www.nopetaskforce.org or call NOPE at 813-340-1862.