NEWBURYPORT, Mass. — A Newburyport man is on a month-long mission to dive into the ocean every day to raise awareness of substance abuse and money for a charity that fights addiction.
Connor Mulholland was inspired by Chucky Rosa, who has been plunging into the frigid water every day for years to honor his sons whom he lost to accidental overdoses.
Mulholland, who lost friends to addiction, joined Rosa in a swim near Rosa’s Seabrook, N.H., home Thursday.
With each daily dip in the month of February sponsored by local businesses, Mulholland has already surpassed his fundraising goal of $6,000 for Rosa’s non-profit, Chucky’s Fight.
”My whole fundraiser is in memory of my two friends that I lost to the opioid epidemic,” Mulholland said. “I’ve known Chucky the last two years, and I was super inspired by him, what he’s been able to give back to the community, his story. And I knew I wanted to do something. I needed to do something.”
For about 15 years, Rosa has been raising money through Chucky’s Fight to support recovering addicts and speak to youth about addiction at schools.
”I believe it all starts at prevention,” Rosa said. “If you don’t start, you don’t know what you’re not missing, basically.”In 2003, Rosa’s 20-year-old son Vincent died of a drug overdose.
The next year, his 23-year-old son Domenic lost his battle with substance abuse, too.
Rosa scattered his sons’ ashes in the ocean where he now swims at least once a day.
”I’m not doing cartwheels when it says twenty-below-zero windchill down there,” Rosa said. “But I make myself do it, and I’m always glad that I do.”
While freezing and snowy days are not easy on the body, Rosa dives into the Atlantic not only for his boys but also his own sobriety.
”I haven’t missed a day in years. I make that commitment, and I tell people l that I make myself do it the same way I make myself drive by the liquor store that’s 100 yards up the road. To me, it’s a mental choice you make,” Rosa said. “I buried two sons. And I feel guilty sometimes, because I wasn’t always making good choices.”
Mulholland hopes talking about addiction will make it easier for people to get help.”[Addiction] is a huge problem,” Mulholland said. “It shouldn’t be a stigma. We’re all human.”
With Mulholland’s fundraising efforts, Rosa expects be able to reach more kids with his critical message.
”Don’t start something,” Rosa said, offering advice to youth, “because you could be in a fight for the rest of your life.”
Donations to Chucky’s Fight can be made here.
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