The Power of Love Works Miracles
By Kerry J. Bickford, VOICES Editor
Massachusetts Team Sharing, a group dedicated to parents who have lost a child to substance use disorder, is the loving result of one mother’s grief after losing her son to an overdose in 2011. Cheryl Juaire is quick to say she knew nothing about addiction when her son, Corey Merrill, died at age 23.
Ironically, Corey was planning to visit his mother in Florida the day after he died. Instead of a visit, she received a phone call from her oldest son telling her that his brother had died. At Cheryl’s request, he had called for a wellness check at his home in Arlington after Corey never arrived. Her worst fears were confirmed. Ten years later, she is still in disbelief.
Says Cheryl, sadly: “Back then, I thought it was a choice. I didn’t know anyone who had lost a child, never mind from an overdose. I felt like I wanted to die. I wandered in the desert for three years with nothing but my faith to comfort me.”
Cheryl flew round-trip to Massachusetts every couple of months to spend time at her youngest child’s grave. She eventually moved back to the state, where she and six other mothers started an informal chat group on Facebook Messenger.
“We blew it up,” she laughs. “The peer support was so validating.”
In 2015, all seven traveled to the Fed Up Rally in Washington, D.C. This ignited a fire in her belly, Cheryl says. She returned to Massachusetts and decided to create a Facebook page, MA Team Sharing, to remember the birthdays and “angelverseries” of loved ones who have died by overdose. The page quickly grew to 750 members, and Cheryl’s mission now involves education and support about the disease of addiction, something she wishes she had known more about when her son was struggling.
In 2017, Cheryl was forwarded a request regarding a family who had lost a child to addiction and did not have the resources to bury him. This broke Cheryl’s heart, and she decided then to set up a nonprofit organization to raise funds to support similar needs. Since then, MA Team Sharing has sponsored a 5K and fundraised for benevolence assistance, which “provides grief support in connection with substance-use disorder, including opioid addiction.” Cheryl’s team annually distributes holiday gifts to children who have lost a parent to addiction. She has advocated with U.S. Representative Lori Trahan of Massachusetts for the CARE Act resolution to provide as much as $100 billion to state and local governments to deal with the opioid epidemic. This effort has been a labor of love, which earned Cheryl a seat as Trahan's guest at the State of the Union address in 2020 (see photo above).
A few years back, Cheryl began a campaign to have the U.S. and state flags lowered to half-staff on International Overdose Awareness Day (August 31) and is now laser-focused on getting this approved.
Another current project is her MA Overdose Awareness license plate campaign. The plate is only $40, with the funds generated from sales going directly to supporting families who have been touched by this epidemic, as described on Team Sharing’s web page. Information on the organization’s mission, support groups, addiction, activism, upcoming events and more are listed there.
Cheryl’s tireless efforts have caught the attention of many people, both local and national. Her numerous accomplishments are notable, but she is driven not by any accolades that come her way but by the memory of how little she knew about opioid addiction when her son struggled, how devastated she was after his death, and how important she believes it is to receive grief support. Cheryl has launched a Team Sharing chapter in 22 other states and says she “won't stop until there is one in every state.” Most importantly, she honors all of our loved ones -- every day -- with her relentless efforts in Corey’s memory.