A local organization is joining an initiative that aims to bring awareness to overdose deaths.

Portage Friendship Centre is displaying cards that have an image of a black balloon on it along with the name of someone that lost their life to a drug overdose as part of an international campaign to further bring attention to the issue.

Cari-Ann Nickels and Diane Thiessen display the balloon cards.

"We support women, mothers - pregnant or becoming pregnant - who are users," says Cari-Ann Nickels, a mentor with the Centre's InSight Mentoring Program. "We just want to raise awareness for remembering those that have passed on."

Dubbed Black Balloon Day, each year on March 6th, families and loved ones remember and celebrate the lives lost to overdose. The growing initiative began in the United States when a family lost their father to an overdose on March 6th, 2015.

A look at the cards that will be used at the Portage Friendship Centre.

"We are actually hanging balloons in the windows at the Portage Friendship Centre in memory," adds Nickels. "And on Saturday, we will have some blank ones if anybody wants to come by with their own pen or marker to write their own loved one's name on them."

The Friendship Centre doesn't have anything specific planned for the day as COVID restrictions continue to complicate gatherings, but Nickels adds the public is still welcome to stop by and celebrate a loved one.

"People are welcome to come by, and just pay their respects," she says. "And after Saturday, if they would like to have their balloon, they are more than welcome to contact us and we can give it to them. Or if anybody needs any blank ones for themselves, they can contact us and we can print them for them as well to hang other places."

The latest overdose statistics provided by the Province are only up-to-date for the first three quarters of 2019 and indicate that between Jan. 1 - Sept. 30 of that year, 29 Manitobans lost their live to an overdose. Granted, as wait times for toxicology reports are significant, there are still cases being entered and under review - suggesting that that number can increase.

Anyone looking for more information about Black Balloon Day locally, they can contact Nickels or Diane Thiessen at the Centre at 204-239-6333.