WALTHAM, Mass. - A Waltham couple who lost their son to an overdose is helping other addicts on the road to recovery.
Joe and Joni Maffei’s son, Brian Nolette, a 34-year-old father, devoted friend and talented barber, died in October 2015.
Joni hadn’t realized how long her son had been battling addiction, but once she found out he was in trouble, she spent entire days on the phone trying to find him a bed in a treatment facility.
Despite his loved ones’ efforts, Brian lost his battle to a fentanyl overdose.
“He was very charismatic,” Joni Maffei said of her son. “Everybody loved him.”
Brian had been in and out of jail since he was a teen, and as an adult, his driver’s license was suspended.
Joe and Joni recognized the challenges Brian experienced not only getting to work but also getting to treatment the moment a bed was available.
“We saw what he had to go through to go to work every day, and we said to ourselves, ‘Jeez, if he’s having a hard time with this, I bet all the other people are having a hard time,’” said Joe, who is legally blind. “I’ve had a vision problem all my life, so I never drove. So I always knew exactly what it took to try to get to point A to point B. So I said to (Joni), ‘Honey, we need to start a program.’”
The Maffeis were inspired to help others struggling with addiction after becoming friends with the filmmakers who had created a documentary featuring Brian.
Northern Light Productions’ documentary “Beyond the Wall.” Followed several inmates as they reentered society. Brian passed away during the filming, and, with Joni Maffei’s permission, they filmed some of his services, including the scenes in their movie.
The documentary was played at schools, universities and prisons, and for politicians, making it around the state, eventually to Washington, D.C., and finally around the country. That activism pushed Joe and Joni to make a difference, too.
“We went around talking to treatment centers and different organizations, and we found out that there was a hole in what was going on,” Joe said. “That hole was, they had the facilities, they couldn’t get the clients there. So I said, ‘That’s it, we need to provide transportation so we can get these people into a bed, into sober homes, into treatment centers.’”
Maffei, who made a name for himself years ago as a drummer, opening for big bands like the Police, had stopped performing for a living while raising his daughter. He decided to get back into the business, starting the non-profit organization Mighty Drum, Inc. His band holds concerts to raise money for the program “Rides to Recovery.”
The couple is reaching out to shelters, hospitals and organizations, putting money into accounts and providing phones for them to call Uber rides for addicts who don’t have licenses or cars. Those rides will take those in need to court dates, appointments and mainly treatment.
“Once they’re willing to go to recovery, you got to get them there, or you’ll lose them,” Joni said.
The Maffeis have raised up to $15,000 so far. Their efforts have brought joy back into their lives in honor of a young man gone too soon.
“It makes me feel that there was a reason and that you can turn it around to be something great,” Joni said of her family’s pain.
“Instead of focusing on all the people we’ve lost, we focus on those in recovery and we create success stories,” Joe added.
Joe has used the connections he still has in the music business to set up events.
The next concert fundraiser will feature famed blues singer, James Montgomery, and guitarist David Hull, who was a substitute bass player for Aerosmith, and Jeff Levine, who played keyboard for Hall and Oates.
The event is at the American Legion hall at 215 Waverly Oaks Road in Waltham on Sept. 22.
For more information or to donate to the Maffeis’ organization, visit www.mightydrum.org
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