YUMA, Ariz. (KECY, KYMA) - Mary was your typical all-American girl with big dreams.
Her mother, Hilda, says she had a smile that would brighten up a room and her sense of humor was like no other.
Born and raised in Yuma, Arizona, a cheerleader at Kofa High School.
“I had this beautiful young girl that was all around, your typical American girl with dreams and hopes and on this side, she liked her pot,” said Hilda.
At about 15 years old, Mary began smoking marijuana.
When she graduated from high school and moved to Phoenix, she continued in that journey, dabbling into harder drugs.
“But that was a little secret that I didn’t notice,” said Hilda.
On August 13, 2020 Hilda’s phone rang, changing her life forever.
“One day, I got a call from her boyfriend and said he had got home and she didn’t wake up,” said Hilda.
She was 24 when she passed away from a fentanyl overdose.
“It's like a Russian Roulette, those hopes, those dreams, were no longer there.”
And this could happen to anyone, any family.
Hilda made it her life’s mission to spread awareness of how harmful this drug is, to save other teens.
“Do you think that parents in Yuma should be worried? Very much so because we’re a border town and that right there is a catalyst. It comes through here and spreads all over. And they say that some fentanyl is not as strong, as others but what if that one, is that one, you know, that will end your child’s life,” said Hilda.
She says, if she could do it again, she would.
“Because we do live right near the border unfortunately there are a lot of drugs that come through the border that could be laced with other substances that people aren’t aware of, so it’s not dangerous only for children or juveniles, but for anyone,” said Tania Pavlak, YCSO Public Affairs Specialist.
So far this year, deputies have responded to seven cases involving drugs and teens.
With at least one teen death this calendar year according to the Yuma County Medical Examiner's Office.
The Yuma County Juvenile Justice Center says fentanyl is a serious issue for youth in Yuma County.
“So, we find that unfortunately all drugs are present in our community, for those juvenile justice involved youth. Our focus has been recently on fentanyl, all drugs are bad, but fentanyl is bad in that it is highly addictive, it’s very lethal, and it’s readily available to us,” said Henry Gonzalez, Yuma County Juvenile Court Probation Supervisor.
Gonzalez says parents can save the lives of their children.
“I know about recovery and I know that lives can change. It starts in the core of a family and I heard it once said that ‘if I baby an addict, I will bury an addict,” said Hilda.
YCSO, the Juvenile Justice Center and Hilda are all focused-on spreading fentanyl awareness in the Yuma community.
“We just want the public to understand that we need to address this as a community, so not just the juvenile justice system, but its also gonna take the partnerships and collaboration with our medical folks, our law enforcement, with our treatment folks to come together,” said Gonzalez.
“Be involved in your child’s life. Get to know who their friends are get to know who their parents are, communicate with their teachers, but most importantly talk to them. Talk to them about the dangers of drug use and talk to them about their future, what kind of future they want to have. The more you know about their hobbies, passions and interests, the more apparent their early warning signs will be,” said Pavlak.
Early warnings signs Hilda wishes she would have seen much sooner.
“Our children are beautiful and worth everything, you know, take care of the situation before it’s too late,” said Hilda.