Sullivan Farm bench a symbol to fight drug addiction
NEW MILFORD — Yvonne Pierce hopes a bench dedicated in her son’s memory will serve as a place of solace for those fighting opioid addiction.
The bench was built by students who work for the New Milford Youth Agency. It was dedicated last Saturday at Sullivan Farm where it sits by the pond on the 106-acre, town-owned property.
“My son, Richon, loved to fish,” Pierce said. “I had seen the granite bench near Panera Bread in memory of a young man who lost his life in a car crash. I thought I wanted to do the same for Richon and approached Mark Mankin (director of the Youth Agency). He suggested a wooden bench, built by young people and placed at Sullivan Farm.”
Richon Van Der Veen-Wojciechowski died on July 29, 2014 from a heroin overdose. Van Der Veen-Wojciechowski, 29, had struggled with a heroin addiction for some time, his mother said.
“If I can bring some awareness about addiction — that people can get help — I can make something positive of this awful thing that has happened to our family,” Pierce said. “This bench is a quiet place to sit and reflect, to think about life and how much there is to live for.”
Mankin said the bench’s location by the pond at Sullivan Farm is a tranquil place.
“It’s a perfect spot,” he said. “You have the pond in front of you. You’re looking back up on the mountain. It’s a spectacular view, especially this time of year. And quite a few people go out there to hike or walk their dogs.”
Mankin believes having young people involved in building the bench was a valuable experience for them.
“It reminded them of a situation that we are all very much dealing with in our community,” Mankin said.
Van Der Veen-Wojcechowski graduated Brookfield High School in 2002. He had a degree in business administration from Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island. His step-sisters, Alexssa Dias and Tara Pierce, remember him as the big brother they could always turn to.
“He was very kind and considerate,” Alexssa Dias, 19, said. “His family meant a lot to him.”