NEW CANAAN — It was a night of remembrance and conversation on South Avenue as people from in and out of town came to attend the 2nd Annual Awareness Vigil.

In its second year, the event sought to do away with the stigma associated with substance abuse and to allow people to share their stories in the open in order to raise awareness about issues that are commonly kept from view.

“I think this is a great organization and event and it’s something that definitely needs to be talked about,” Chris Grillo, a parent of two high school students, said. “I would like to see more youth here but the event has certainly helped and I think it’s having its effects.”

For Paul Reinhardt, the founder of New Canaan Parent Support Group and an organizer of the event, this second annual event brought something more than the first.

“Sharing stories is the best way we learn and we’re really excited to have these speakers come here tonight,” Reinhardt said.

Reihardt was alluding to one of the most heartfelt moments of the night was around 7:35 p.m. when four different speakers, ranging from parents to recent high school graduates, shared their personal stories of recovery and loss.

“Stigma and shame will kill more people than anything else,” Dan Holland, a resident who has been in recovery, said. “Let’s shine a light on this together.”

Each of the four speakers brought their own story but the singular message to those who listened was clear: you are not alone and there is help.

“Substance use abuse is a chronic disease of the brain and relapse may occur,” Cini Shaw, a parent who lost one of her children to substance abuse, told a sympathetic crowd. “This requires a comprehensive approach over a long period of time.”

Orange, the theme color of the event, was spread throughout the space. Members of Team Orange, the volunteer group who helped organize and prepare the event, were talking with attendees, providing information and guidance.

Michelle Robinson, who works at Silver Hill Hospital and volunteers with Team Orange, had helped prepare the event before its 7:00 p.m. start time.

‘We were putting everything together,” Robinson said. “There’s about 30 of us involved in behind the scenes and preparation.”

Community officials like First Selectman Kevin Moynihan, Superintendent of Schools Bryan Luizzi and state senators and representatives were in attendance.

People from Fairfield County also came to partake in the evening event.

“This is my first time here and felt important to be here,” Hallie Riggs, a worker at The Den for Grieving Kids in Greenwich, said. “I work with children who need support. Any family can come and it’s volunteer run.”

humberto.juarez@hearstmediact.com