A South Dakota news anchor, Angela Kennecke, read the story of her own daughter’s overdose death to reduce the stigma surrounding substance abuse.
She had never imagined that she would become the subject of the story she had dedicated 10 years of her life to reporting: the opioid crisis. But in May, she lost her 21-year-old daughter, Emily, to a fentanyl overdose.
Kennecke and her family were dumbfounded, not even realizing that Emily was addicted to heroin. After taking time off to cope with her daughter’s death, Kennecke returned to the news desk at KELO-TV with an important message for her community.
“My choice, even at great personal risk, is to share my daughter’s story with all of you,” she said. “The reason I’m doing this is that my only hope in the face of such devastating loss is that Emily’s story, my family’s personal tragedy, can be a catalyst for change.”
The clip quickly went viral, catching the attention of CBS This Morning. Kennecke visited the show to talk about her daughter and a newfound calling of helping others in her community. Ironically, Kennecke had spoken with three other parents about their children’s opioid addiction the day her daughter died.
“I knew my daughter had a problem and on that day, we were planning an intervention. I just didn’t know what it was she was using. I think we need so much more than judgment, compassion. I’m trying to do what I can to make changes in my own community back home to get people the help that they need. And that’s all really I can do with this.”
Kennecke is working in her local community to change the stigma of drug abuse. She’s set up a fund called “Emily’s Hope” through the Avera McKennan Foundation.
“I want her life and her tragic death to at least give someone else hope,” she wrote on keloland.com.
Kennecke remembered her daughter as “the most amazing kid in the world” who was intellectually and artistically gifted.
“As a mom, I have a hole in my heart that will always be there. It is never going to heal. I have other children that I love. I have a husband that I love. But nothing and nobody can replace the loss of my oldest child,” Kennecke wrote.
“My only hope in the face of such devastating loss is that Emily’s story, my family’s personal tragedy, can be a catalyst for change,” she said. “If 72,000 people were dying a year from any other cause, we would be uniting to end the suffering of so many families, so many mothers.”
“I was robbed of my daughter. I was simply robbed,” she added.
After a leave of absence, Kennecke returned to the air this week to share her story with viewers and shed light on the opioid crisis.
Before returning to work on Wednesday, the mother took to Facebook to describe the decision as the ‘hardest thing’ she had ever done in her career.