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GSU lab will pay tribute to a life cut short by addiction

Trent Bartolomucci was a smart, gentle kid who loved to fish, cherished his family, and stood up for his friends. 

From pre-school through eighth grade, Trent attended a small, private school with the same 22 kids who did everything together, grew up together, and shared many firsts in their young lives. Trent’s academics flourished, his confidence grew, he played sports and he seemed happy.

Trent Bartolomucci with his mom, Kim, and his dad, Tony. (Provided photo
courtesy of Kim Bartolomucci)

But when Trent went to high school, something triggered a seven-year-long roller-coaster ride through bouts of addiction. His mother, Kim Bartolomucci, said the addiction began with marijuana use.  His family tried everything to help—counseling, stints in rehab, a chocolate lab puppy named Ollie, and anything else they could think of to ease the anxiety that triggered Trent’s substance abuse.

“I think high school is where it started,” Kim said.  “He didn’t know anyone.  He had anxiety. A lot of people don’t believe marijuana is a gateway drug, but it is a drug and for people who are prone to addiction, I think it’s totally a gateway.”

There were glimpses of hope when Trent would get clean for extended periods of time, but his addictions plagued him throughout high school. He even missed his graduation, but the principal held a ceremony just for him in her office, took pictures, and advised him that he needed to get away from the area to get healthy.

Trent took the advice and enrolled at John A. Logan College in Carterville, Illinois, at midterm. The change of scenery seemed to give him purpose and changed his outlook for the better.

“He started in the middle of the semester and the only class open was physical education,” Kim said. “He started working out and after that we signed him up for regular classes and he liked them. He liked getting back to learning and he had success there. In addition, his girlfriend Taylor was enrolled at SIU, just nine miles away.”

Trent worked hard during his two years at Logan, and he started applying to universities where he could earn a master’s degree in accountancy. He was accepted at all nine schools he applied to and chose the University of Missouri at Columbia where, Kim said, he loved it.

“We went down to Columbia several times, including for family weekend, which was Sept. 21 (2014),” she said. 

Kim Bartolomucci in what will be the waiting room for people who come to the lab for help. She said she can’t wait until the furniture arrives and Trent Bartolomucci Behavioral Health Lab goes live on June 27. (Karen Torme Olson/H-F Chronicle)
Kim Bartolomucci in what will be the waiting room for people
who come to the lab for help. She said she can’t wait until the
furniture arrives and Trent Bartolomucci Behavioral Health Lab
goes live on June 27. (Karen Torme Olson/H-F Chronicle)

On Oct. 9, three weeks after his parents’ visit, “Taylor called us from Carbondale to say she couldn’t get a hold of Trent. We called his landlord, who called the maintenance man. A friend went over there and heard Ollie barking,” Kim said.

By the time help got to Trent, he had died from an accidental overdose two months short of his 22nd birthday.

Kim vowed that she would honor Trent’s memory by finding ways to give others a chance to win their battles against addiction.

By spring of 2015, Kim began holding fundraising events: a baseball game at Ozinga Field, a recovery walk at GSU in memory of those who died from addiction. 

She used the funds she raised to start the Trent Bartolomucci Foundation and to fund scholarships for students who were working toward their master’s degrees in addiction studies at GSU. She organized prayer meetings for anyone struggling with drug abuse. This year Kim will host her fourth prayer meeting on Aug. 27 at the Hickory Creek Church in Frankfort. Aug. 31 is National Addiction Day.

“I just hope it helps,” Kim said. “If I could help one person, one family get out of the stronghold of addiction, it’s worth it.”

This year will be the 10th anniversary of Trent’s death. 

On June 27, a little less than 10 years after Trent died, his mom will cut a ribbon at the grand opening of a state-of-the-art lab for addiction studies at Governors State University that not only will serve GSU students and the community but also will be a training site for students working on master’s degrees in addiction studies.

“We wanted to keep the funds in this area because this is where we live, and we’ve seen the need,” Kim said. “We want to put our resources here so they can go back into the community. We decided to offer our scholarships to students working to become addiction counselors who could touch hundreds of lives at once.” 

While the pain of losing Trent will never fully go away, Kim finds comfort in knowing that his spirit lives on through her efforts to help others find their way back from addiction.

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