Hope Through Tragedy with Emily’s… | South Dakota Community Foundation

Hope Through Tragedy with Emily’s Hope

Emily portrait photo

Emily’s Hope is a legacy charity in the name of a prolific painter whose life was cut short. On May 16, 2018, Emily Groth tragically died of fentanyl poisoning. In just three days, Emily was scheduled to be checked into a treatment center. She never made it. Emily’s family was in the process of organizing an intervention to get her into treatment after realizing something “wasn’t right.” Emily’s death on that Wednesday in May was a shock to her family, who did not realize she was injecting heroin. The dose Emily used that day, unbeknownst to her, was laced with enough fentanyl to kill six people.

Emily’s family was devastated that they were not able to get her help in time. Angela Kennecke, Emily’s mother, a seasoned investigative reporter, was covering a story focusing on the opioid crisis the day her daughter passed away. In the face of her grief, Angela vowed that she would do anything she could, in Emily’s name, to prevent other families from going through such a loss. This is how the nonprofit Emily’s Hope began.

Angela Kennecke

What began as a fund to help offset the cost of treatment for substance use disorder has evolved into a nonprofit dedicated to removing the stigma of substance use disorder through awareness, educational resources and prevention; and eliminating financial barriers for treatment and recovery.

South Dakota Community Foundation (SDCF) recently awarded Emily’s Hope a South Dakota Fund grant to expand the number of schools teaching prevention curriculum in grades K-5, as well as develop lessons for middle and high school students. Kennecke recently joined Ginger Niemann, SDCF Senior Program Officer to discuss how tragedy has led to hope for so many across South Dakota.

“I really started thinking about the prevention aspect of the opioid crisis,” shared Angela, “You know, once someone is suffering from substance use disorder, it is such a rocky road to recovery, and I thought how can we prevent this on the front end?”

The Emily’s Hope’s Substance Use Prevention curriculum for K-5 schools has been completed and implemented across South Dakota. This program is free to schools and has been shared with over 6,000 students. With the recent grant from SDCF, Emily’s Hope is now working to complete the development of the K-12 curriculum, as well as expand into community learning centers across the state. Angela counts this as the star program of Emily’s Hope and shared, “This program is so near and dear to my heart and I have seen it in action in the classrooms. Kids soak this stuff up like sponges, and I have had children come to me with questions, so I see it having an impact. It was an amazing experience.”

Other programs offered through Emily’s Hope include monthly support groups for individuals who have lost someone to substance abuse disorder and a newly formed post-overdose response team. The team provides peer support to overdose survivors helping guide individuals to recovery. Emily’s Hope also distributes Narcan, an opioid reversal medication, as well as fentanyl test strips for free in South Dakota.

Learn more about the work of Emily’s Hope.

Learn more about South Dakota Fund grants.