by Lisa Tramontana
Just a year ago, Stacie Triche of Hammond was promoting her first book, a young adult novel with an anti-bullying theme. Then her 14-year-old nephew died, and her world changed. Stacie’s literary work continues, but now, she has added activism to her resume, promoting awareness of the deadly practice that took her nephew’s life.
Charlie Stroud was a fun-loving boy, a good student and an accomplished athlete in Hancock, Miss. One day at school, a classmate took a can of keyboard air duster from a teacher’s desk and inhaled it. Called “huffing,” it’s a cheap thrill that has become fairly common among teenagers and young adults. The classmate told Charlie it was no more dangerous than sucking helium from a balloon.
A few weeks later, Charlie decided to try it at home while he was playing video games with his best friend. He huffed from an aerosol can of Dust Off (a keyboard cleaner), and then stood up and said he felt sick. His friend offered to go and get help, but Charlie said he just needed to lie down. Ten minutes later, his friend checked on him, but Charlie was unresponsive. He asphyxiated and then suffered a heart attack, also known as “Sudden Sniffing Death Syndrome.”
Huffing is the deliberate inhalation of fumes, vapors, or gases from common household products such as canned air, air fresheners, even whipped cream (with nozzles powered by a dose of nitrous oxide). According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, it’s a dangerous practice that can become highly addictive, and sometimes kills first-time users.
Stacie, of course, was devastated. Charlie, whose mother had died when he was very young, was like a son to Stacie. The main characters in her book, “Concealed Names,” were named after Charlie and his sister. Charlie loved “Concealed Names” and had told Stacie he believed it should be made into a movie. He said he couldn’t wait for her to release the second book in the four-part series.
After Charlie’s death, Stacie had a new mission. “I learned as much as I could about huffing,” she said. “I learned that 22.5 million Americans are abusing household products to get high, and 15 million of them are under the age of 18. Thousands of children die each year from inhalant abuse. I started going to schools and educating kids. I went on CNN and other news shows sharing my nephew’s story … anything to let people know about this dangerous practice.”
She revised her book as well, introducing a new character and a new storyline about huffing. Recalling Charlie’s idea that the book would make a good movie, Stacie pursued that dream as well. In a stroke of unbelievable good luck, she attracted the attention and interest of Lisa Arnold and Jarred Coates, who produced the recently released Christian film “God’s Not Dead.” They are seeking funding and once the financing is secured, there are plans to shoot the film in Hammond and Baton Rouge.
The film will have a strong anti-bullying message, and will promote awareness of inhalant abuse and Asperger’s Syndrome. Statistics show that more than 50 percent of children would never try an inhalant if they were warned of the dangers. “That means more than 7 million kids’ lives could be saved with the release of this movie,” Stacie said.
Her inspiration for “Concealed Names” came from a childhood visit to Cate Square Park in Hammond, a time capsule memory, and her own experiences of being bullied in elementary school. “At 12 years old, I transferred from a Christian school to a public school, and the kids made fun of me because I talked about Jesus and folded my hands to say grace at lunchtime,” Stacie said. “I have a memory of sitting down at a table in the cafeteria where there was a large group of students. After I sat down, one by one, they all got up and walked away.”
Hurtful yes, but Stacie has found a way to create something positive from those painful memories. She has already seen the fruits of her labor with her anti-bullying message, along with her anti-huffing education efforts. Several parents have contacted her to tell her she saved their child’s life. She is taking both messages now into schools, camps, churches, shelters and seminars. “There is no greater pain than a family having to bury their child, and I will do everything in my power to prevent this from happening to another family,” she said.
If you are interested in investing in the movie, you can contact Stacie via email at: ConcealedSeries@gmail.com.