A beautiful recovery story came to a tragic end when 20-year-old Ben Baker died of an accidental overdose on Jan. 23.
The family has started a GoFundMe to help purchase two benches in Ben’s name.
The first bench is to go in West Kelowna, while the other is to go across the street from the treatment facility in New Westminster that gave Ben what his stepdad describes as his best years.
Stepdad Ty Summach says Ben’s journey with substance abuse started about six years ago.
“His best friend Jaxsn Cahill passed away, that was a major traumatic experience. He also got involved with some bad relationships, romantic relationships that also were not healthy, and it just progressively got worse.”
Ben overdosed for the first time in 2020.
“It was communicated to us that one, the individual has to choose help for themselves and usually that comes with their rock bottom. It was heartbreaking for us to even just imagine that that wasn’t his rock bottom.”
Summach says Ben got progressively worse and spent a period of time living out of his car.
In January 2021 Ben overdosed again.
“The RCMP showed up at our house to tell us that he had passed away. When the RCMP were at our house they then realized he actually wasn’t, the over 20 minutes of CPR they did get a pulse.”
Doctors gave him a 50 per cent chance of survival and said even if he did wake up, it’d be likely Ben would have permanent brain damage.
“About five days later he woke up. About five days after that he was speaking a little bit. A few days after that he was able to walk.”
Summach says Ben made a miraculous recovery and decided to get treatment.
Summach and his wife then did everything they could to advocate for Ben to get treatment with the Last Door in New Westminster.
“Thankfully he said ‘yeah I want to change’, and we, through some of our connections, we got introduced to the Last Door. My wife literally was just hounding them to get him in there, because it’s one of the best treatment facilities in Canada. Thankfully they said yes.”
When Ben was released from hospital they took him straight to treatment.
Summach says Ben had this idea in his head he would only be there for 30 days.
“He became a part of the fabric of the Last Door for all of the last two years. It was a game changer for him.”
Summach says it was incredible to watch Ben go through recovery and be a support for other teens in similar situations.
“It not only gave us Ben back, it was like the best version of Ben I had ever seen. He was truly happy, he found a great girlfriend, he got a great job that he liked, he was doing so well. We have nothing but good things to say about that program.”
Ben completed the 12-step program and it was then time for him to navigate life outside the treatment facility.
“When you’re at the Door, you have a routine, you’re surrounded by friends, all your meals are provided, there are no expenses and bills that you have to worry about personally. Every day you’re going to a recovery meeting or two, you’re surrounded by this recovery journey and it’s just what you do every single day.”
Ben stayed in New Westminster and near the Last Door. His parents helped him find an apartment to get on his feet.
“Ben was trying, he was on track with a lot of things, but at the same time I know… recovery is not going to be a straight line.”
Summach says over the past few months, Ben was taking more steps back on his recovery journey than steps forward.
“He came out here for Christmas… We had an amazing Christmas. He spent it with his little sister and little brother and grandma and mom and dad. We had the best time.
“But we had this sixth sense of him going back to New Westminster, but at the same time he was going to recovery meetings, he was doing the right things, and he again had one step back.”
Summach says that’s the thing with current street drugs, “it only takes one step back and that can be it and it does not discriminate on who you are.”
To keep Ben’s legacy alive, the family created a GoFundMe and has purchased memorial benches in Ben’s name.
“One bench is going right next to his best friend’s bench, Jaxsn, at the new West Kelowna skate park, so those boys will be together skating. The other one that we’ve purchased is going to go directly across the street from the Youth Door where he lived, that’s where his community and second family are, and we really hope those two benches can be a place where his community and his peers can remember him and gather and talk about recovery, hopefully be inspired to either get clean or stay clean.”
Summach says they’ve surpassed the $10,000 fundraiser goal and all remaining funds will be given to the Last Door.
“Whether that is helping subsidize a bed for another family. Whether that is helping them open up more programs. Everything else raised will be put toward that.”
Summach hopes the funds will give families a better chance of getting loved ones into a place that actually works.
For those who may be in a place similar to where Ben was, Summach says, “I think just reaching out to places like the Last Door, everyone is willing to have a conversation. I would just say have that conversation and continue to advocate for yourself. It wasn’t easy for us to get Ben into the Last Door, but we advocated for ourselves. We felt like if we couldn’t get him in then we would potentially lose our son.
“Reach out to these resources. They are there, they are hard to find, but hopefully what we’re doing here is shining a light on a place that actually works.”
Learn more about Ben’s journey or donate to the fundraiser by visiting https://gofund.me/9c7e8706.