Creator of the original Buffalo Tough Key Chain.
Linking the 17 Counties of WNY with the power of connection.
As we stare into our phones, it is often said we have "lost connection" with the real world. But new technology can help power connections that aid in the growing effort to help families who are struggling. Our goal is to help connect communities all over Buffalo, digitally. Help us connect the 17 counties that are home to the city of good neighbors.
Buffalo knows family life is tough. The key is to stay connected.
Each key chain has 17 links (including the key ring), representing the 17 counties of Western New York. The unbroken circle signifies the strength of the community and their support of recovery.
"Strong connections can mean life or death in a world that does not stop turning for a broken link," said Bart, Pawelek's younger brother. "The key is to stay connected."
Of the $20 retail price, 50 percent goes to Kids Escaping Drugs, which funds drug treatment and education. It benefits the charity's Face 2 Face program, which does community outreach.
Kids Escaping Drugs gives Buffalo Tough Chains to its male program graduates, and the Buffalo Tough website allows shoppers to buy chains to donate directly to people in treatment there. Female graduates get an Alex and Ani key bracelet.
The key and keychain signify that each graduate has "the key to their own success. They have the power to go out and be successful," said Suzanne D'Amico director of development at Kids Escaping Drugs.
The charity was attracted to Buffalo Tough Chains partly because the company's owners were successfully recovering from addiction themselves and were still able to start a small business, D'Amico said.
"It sends a very powerful message to our graduates,"she said. "We want to give our graduates hope that they can go back out into society and be very productive and lead wonderful lives when they leave us."
Autumn Ormerod had been clean for three years but relapsed shortly before Pawelek died. The two had done drugs together that night from the same bag. Ormerod woke up. Pawelek didn't.
She had been calling rehab facilities every day for two months trying to get herself a bed when her cousin overdosed, she said.
"Getting turned away from rehab is so discouraging," she said.
Autumn wants to help keep others from getting turned away from treatment. Donating to Kids Escaping Drugs, which runs a rehab facilities for chemically dependent teens and adolescents, is one way to do that, she said.
The act of making the chains keeps her mind focused on something positive, and helps her feel that something good is coming out of her cousin's tragic death.
"Addicts are not bad people," Autumn said. "My cousin would be so happy knowing that, even though he's not here, he's still helping the city he loved so much."