Today marks what would have been Tyler Degenkolb’s 25th birthday. Tomorrow, hundreds of people are anticipated to hop on their motorcycles in celebration of his memory.
Degenkolb was close with his family. He loved all things outdoors, especially riding dirt bikes and spending time on the lake. He also suffered from an addiction disorder.
He died from a heroin overdose on April 22, 2018.
In the midst of her grief, Tami Stout, Degenkolb’s mother, along with her family, started Tyler’s Triumphs, a nonprofit organization that helps those struggling with addiction disorders as well as other psychological disorders in the area. Funds raised support people in need of help, in partnership with Turning Point Systems of Care, Stout said.
The second annual Tyler’s Triumphs Ride of Hope is a day-long adventure that will travel from Kokomo to Fairmount, Converse, Mississinewa, Peru and Wabash, with stops for food and entertainment in between. While the event is action-packed with fun and adventure, the root of the cause – to help people struggling with addiction or recovery – is never lost.
“This isn’t just for people who are recovering or survivors and family of those lost to overdose, we really encourage people who are affected by depression, anxiety, addiction disorders, to come and be involved,” she said. “We want to get the awareness out, that we can talk about this. We can work together and encourage recovery.”
The first Tyler’s Triumphs event was a walk around Foster Park on June 16, 2018. Since then, Stout has become more entrenched in the local recovery community. She said helping others with their hardships allowed her to heal.
“Just that first walk, I got to meet other moms and grandmas dealing with losing their children like I had,” she said. “I’ve met all these people who have touched me, and now I can touch them. Being around moms and grandmas who have lost their kids to suicide and mental-health disorders just created this bond. I’m so proud to help anyone I can.”
All funds raised by Tyler’s Triumphs will go toward sponsoring people early in recovery, which can mean funding rehabilitation, intensive outpatient therapy, medications or other things insurance might not cover, Stout said.
“We benefit anyone impacted by these disorders, so our reach goes further than you might expect,” she said. “One thing people don’t realize is there’s a lot of grandparents raising kids because their parents are struggling with addiction. So, for instance, we were able to purchase a bed for a girl who didn’t have a bed. Whatever the need is, we get out there and do what we can.”
Stout said events like the Ride of Hope is a fun way to address an insidious issue impacting the entire community.
“We all know someone struggling with addiction, whether it’s a family member, neighbor, friend, it’s impacting everyone you know in some way,” she said. “This is our chance to come out and show them, ‘We’re doing this for you. We see you. We love you.’”