Run to raise money for fund, named after overdose victim, that helps provide mental health services to youths

Tim Buckley is shown in this undated family photo. He died last year in California of a heroin overdose. On Saturday, July 28, 2018, a 5K run in Old Lyme will raise money for a fund, named after Tim Buckley, that helps provide mental health and addiction services to youths. (Courtesy of Lisa Buckley)
Tim Buckley is shown in this undated family photo. He died last year in California of a heroin overdose. On Saturday, July 28, 2018, a 5K run in Old Lyme will raise money for a fund, named after Tim Buckley, that helps provide mental health and addiction services to youths. (Courtesy of Lisa Buckley)

Old Lyme — For the second straight year, Saturday’s Midsummer 5K Run & Walk will benefit a fund named after Tim Buckley, a town native whose infectious personality impacted hundreds before he fatally overdosed on heroin last year at age 22.

The Timothy P. Buckley Memorial Fund, managed by the Lymes’ Youth Service Bureau, supports programs that address mental wellness and addiction. The 5K, which also features a kids’ run, kicks off the annual Midsummer Festival, a celebration of arts, culture and food in the town’s historical district.

“It’s very humbling that the people at LYSB care so much about Tim and my family to do this,” said Tim’s father, Chris Buckley, who used to chair the agency’s board.

“And it’s a little surreal,” he said. “When the race was established (in 2010) for Caroline’s Miracle Foundation, Tim ran in it as a young boy. Now it’s for him. That’s bittersweet for us.”

Buckley said he and his wife, Lisa, noticed Tim’s anxiety at a young age. He stopped taking naps at 18 months old, Buckley said — he had trouble turning off his brain.

But Tim also was outgoing and smart, Buckley said. He had his own set of friends but liked to chat with adults, too. And he remembered their names, even when his father didn’t.

“He was my walking Rolodex,” Buckley said.

Buckley said Tim was in counseling for years for anxiety and depression but later turned to substances to help. Buckley’s wife found marijuana in her son’s room the first day of summer vacation after his sophomore year.

“My friends used to say, ‘What’s the big deal? Kids do that. Our generation did that,’” Buckley said. “But it wasn’t the same for Tim. It was a problem from the first time. It would change his personality from happy-go-lucky and remarkable to dark and removed.”

Tim’s despair and discussion of suicide twice led him to be removed from Lyme-Old Lyme High School and hospitalized, Buckley said.

In 2012 or 2013, when Tim was 17 or 18, he joined a nine-week therapy-in-the-wilderness program in Georgia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Tim was an outdoorsman and loved the challenge of traveling without flashlights, lighters and other essentials, Buckley said.

Once, a member of Tim’s group dropped his 70-pound pack and refused to keep walking. The other guys yelled at him, Buckley said, but Tim went over, picked up the pack and traveled with two that day.

“He wasn’t a big guy — he was 5 foot 7,” Buckley said. “He just thought that was the best way to help that kid out.”

The $29,000 program, not covered by insurance, was only possible because Tim’s grandparents — all four live in southeastern Connecticut — were willing to help.

But like many programs to come, the experience muted Tim’s brain only for a few months.

Tim landed a scholarship to St. Michael’s College in Vermont, Buckley said, but only lasted a year-and-a-half before being removed because of his alcoholism.

Tim was in Dana Point, Calif., when he died May 30, 2017. He had gone to a sober program in California, Buckley said, and liked the Alcoholics Anonymous meetings because other young adults attended them.

Tim’s family visited him in March 2017 and he seemed off, Buckley said.

“He always said he wouldn’t do heroin,” Buckley said. “He thought that was a line that, if he crossed it, there would be no return. But it sounds like between March and May, he crossed it.”

Lisa Buckley, who’s an administrative assistant for the Lymes’ Youth Service Bureau, was in the office when she learned of her son’s death. A friend called to see how Lisa was doing and then realized she hadn’t heard the news.

“She said, ‘You haven’t heard? It’s on Facebook that Tim passed away,’” Buckley said. “That’s how my wife heard.”

Buckley, who quickly drove to the 59 Lyme St. office, called it “ground zero.” He said the staff heard them mourning and sprang into action, organizing a candlelight vigil, helping with reception plans and launching the memorial fund.

The bureau “is like family to Lisa and me,” Buckley said. “They pushed their own pain to the side to help us.”

Buckley said Tim’s struggles inspired him to serve a six-year stint as board chairman. They played a role in Lisa’s decision to join the agency, too.

“There are so many families on the same journey that need so much help,” he said. “The resources available for adolescents are laughable. So, privately, people need to step up and help out ... and that’s what we’re trying to do.”

Overdoses killed 1,038 people in Connecticut last year, Chief Medical Examiner Dr. James Gill has said.

Bureau Director Mary Seidner said last year’s 5K event raised $12,000 and “this year we’re already ahead of that.”

The memorial fund helps the bureau provide counseling to adolescents, who aren’t turned away if they can’t pay. It also supports educational programs and the agency’s prevention coalition.

“Last year, even though it was so close to Tim’s passing, (the 5K) was happy and uplifting,” Buckley said. “I hope every year it’s a happy event, because Tim loved to laugh and have fun. Tim was so much more than his disease.”

l.boyle@theday.com

If you go

Lymes' Youth Service Bureau's Midsummer 5K Run & Walk and Kids K to benefit LYSB's Timothy P. Buckley Memorial Fund supporting mental wellness and addiction prevention.


Location: 59 Lyme St., Old Lyme
Date: Saturday, July 28
Time:  6:45 a.m. registration opens; 8 a.m. 5K Run & Walk, 9 a.m. Kids K
Register: www.LYSB.org; 5K Run & Walk is $30 for adults and $15 for youth, Kids K fun run is $10. Commemorative T-shirts are available for the first 200 registered participants.
For more info: (860) 434-7208

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