Debbi Campiti poses for a portrait with a photo of her son, Nick Willard, who overdosed on Christmas Day, during an interview Monday, March 4, 2019 at her Granger home. Staff photo by Michael Caterina
Debbi Campiti poses for a portrait with a photo of her son, Nick Willard, who overdosed on Christmas Day, during an interview Monday, March 4, 2019 at her Granger home. Staff photo by Michael Caterina
GRANGER — Hanging in Debbie Campiti’s bedroom is a canvas print with a photo of her son, Nick Willard. Printed on the photo in white writing reads “Love you forever my son. See you in heaven.”

This past Christmas, the 30-year-old Willard was found dead of a heroin overdose in his mother’s Granger home. But for the nine months before his death, Nick was clean and residing in Atlanta at Stepping Stones sober living. For the first time in his roughly six-year battle with addiction, Nick was himself again, Debbie said.

“He was happier than I’ve seen him in years,” she said. “I was so happy to see him living normally again — as a normal person free of those addiction chains.”

Nick was born in Elkhart and graduated from Penn High School in 2007. He loved music and basketball shoes, specifically Nike and Air Jordans. He was also very active in weight lifting, snowboarding and golf.

Debbie said she knows she is biased, but Nick always seemed to be good at whatever he tried. But most importantly, Debbie said, Nick had a tremendously kind heart and loving nature.

During his time at Stepping Stones, Nick had a passion for helping others at the facility with their sobriety while continuing to work on his own. Debbie said he talked with her about ways he could work with people with addictions.

“Nick had the goal of doing something after he was independent and out of the sober living facility,” she said. “He really wanted to help people.”

Debbie is not going to let her son’s goals go unaccomplished. Now she wants to help others succeed in recovery with the Nick Willard Live Again Foundation, an organization she hopes can help people start over like Nick did.
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