Teamsters from around the nation at the union’s international convention in Las Vegas stunned the co-founder of a new Akron nonprofit set up to raise awareness about heroin addiction by pledging at least $1.4 million to the organization.
The pledges followed a talk Wednesday morning by Travis Bornstein, head of Teamsters Local 24 in Akron, who spoke before thousands of people at the convention about the 2014 heroin death of his 23-year-old son, Tyler. Bornstein and two other families created the nonprofit Breaking Barriers – Hope Is Alive in memory of Tyler and two others, Zach Warner and Tyler Westbury, all Lake High School graduates who died of heroin overdoses.
“It’s unbelievable,” Bornstein said. “Someone took the mic and said we want to make a donation. On and on it went. $1.4 million. ... It kind of took off.”
Breaking Barriers had maybe $10,000 in a bank account when he started his morning talk to the delegates, Bornstein said.
The wave of pledges delayed the convention, which the union holds every five years, by more than an hour, said Kara Deniz, Teamsters press secretary.
“A lot of big tough Teamsters guys were tearing up. It was really powerful,” she said.
The pledges were completely unexpected, she said.
“They just passed the hat,” she said. “I have never seen such a display.”
Bornstein told the audience that Breaking Barriers is about helping addicts. His son became a heroin addict after being prescribed painkilling opiates following surgery, he said. Tyler overdosed, and his body was found in a vacant lot, he said.
Bornstein said when he finished his talk, he stood off to the side to be with his wife and oldest daughter who accompanied him to Nevada. As the pledges kept coming in, Teamsters President James P. Hoffa brought them back onstage, he said.
“It was incredible. It was incredible,” Bornstein said. “You are almost in shock. You just can’t believe it. It’s unbelievable. … We’re officially on the map.”
Bornstein said every penny of the money that Breaking Barriers receives will be used in Summit County. He and others at Breaking Barriers will consult with county officials on how best to fill needs.
“Obviously the need is for treatment,” Bornstein said. “We’re going to make a difference. We’re just going to put a plan together. We’re going to use this money to fight this epidemic right here in Summit County.”
Breaking Barrier’s first major fundraiser, the Tyler Bornstein Memorial Golf Outing, is Aug. 21 at Raintree Country Club in Uniontown, Bornstein noted.
Bornstein told the Teamsters that his goal is to build a treatment center on the lot in Coventry Township where his son’s body was found.
Jim Mackinnon can be reached at 330-996-3544 or email@example.com. Follow him @JimMackinnonABJ on Twitter or www.facebook.com/JimMackinnonABJ