The CharitySmith community is brimming with stories that inspire, empower, and remind us of the incredible capacity of the human spirit to turn tragedy into a force for good. The Steps4Hope foundation, established in 2014 by the Moules family, is a shining example of such a story.
Steps4Hope emerged from the depths of grief and loss, following the tragic passing of their beloved son and brother, Jonathan. His untimely departure left an indelible mark on the Moules family, igniting a passion to prevent others from experiencing a similar fate and to help ease the struggle of those close to people who have.
The mission of Steps4Hope is nothing short of heroic. It is dedicated to honoring Jonathan’s life by uniting the community in a shared commitment: to raise awareness about the disease of addiction, to end the stigma that surrounds it, and ultimately, to save lives.
In the following interview with Pam Moules, the driving force behind Steps4Hope, we delve into the remarkable journey that transformed a family’s profound loss into a beacon of hope. Pam shares her experiences, insights, and the powerful story of how Steps4Hope has become an instrument of change, making strides towards a world where addiction is met with compassion, understanding, and effective support.
Can you please tell me about Jonathan? What was he like? What made him special?
Jonathan was just the sweetest, most sensitive, and loving child. He was always spirited and active. From the moment he could walk, it was obvious he was a natural athlete. He loved and played all sports but ended up loving basketball and lacrosse the most.
Jonathan had a ton of friends and was always very social. He could be the life of the party with his hilarious sense of humor. He also had a very caring side and always took time to make sure his friends were ok. If they needed him, he was there.
As a son, he was truly kind and special. He never ended the conversation or left the room without telling us he loved us. His strong hugs, deep voice and beautiful smile are things I still long for each and every day. I never doubted how much he was dedicated to his family. Even in his most challenging moments, he took time to spend with his little brother, making sure he was loved and cherished by him. He was a twin and the bond between the twins was unspoken but clearly deep. They spent their lives close together with the same interests, friends, and loyalties.
His loss has been incredibly painful for all of us. I can’t help but feel this world has lost an amazing person and I’m determined to make sure his legacy remains strong and meaningful. Thank you to CharitySmith for helping us make that possible.
Can you share any specific stories or moments that stand out to you that demonstrate the fund’s impact on someone’s life?
There have been so many. There are two programs right now that are making the biggest impact. One is our parents’ grief group, For Jonathan’s Sake. It’s sadly an ever-growing group of parents that have lost a child to a substance related death. The parents always tell me how this group has saved their lives. They come into the room just devastated, as you can imagine, and find companionship and support that really helps them with their journey. You start at ground zero, day one, and you’re in shock. It’s amazing when you reach the point where you walk into the room and everybody’s laughing together. This happened last night. We were laughing and I looked around and I said, “I’m amazed that we can laugh but thank goodness we can.”
The other program is a recovery house scholarship program that we run. Just the other night I met with a group of guys at a recovery house for our new project, and when I left, one the guys came running out and said, “I just wanted to tell you how much this means to me. I was able to get my feet on the ground and you don’t know how much that helps.” When you go into this type of recovery situation you’ve lost everything, you’ve burned all your bridges and you don’t have any money. So, the scholarships really mean the world to these guys because it gives them a couple of weeks to not worry about things, to go out every day to look for a job and get on their feet. It’s not an upbeat situation that they find themselves in so people are very appreciative of the assistance Steps4Hope offers.
What are some of the major accomplishments or milestones Steps4Hope has achieved since its establishment that stand out in your mind?
The first fundraiser that we had was a 5K. I tried to pull it together, not knowing how to do it, but I was desperate to do it because part of my mission is to break the stigma and to educate the community. When I was trying to pull the 5K together I was working with a timing company, with this one specific timer, and I had a lot questions. Finally, she said to me, “What is your mission again?” and I told her, “Well my mission is to break the stigma and help educate the community about substance use disorders.” She said, “You know, I don’t think you’re going to get a lot of people to respond to that mission. Maybe you should think about combining your run with another run.” I said, “I don’t think you understand. I don’t care if I get 50 people at this run. That’s 50 people that will be remembering Jonathan and learning that he died from a disease that’s not unlike dying from any other potentially fatal disease. It takes over your mind, body, and soul.”
In the end, 250 people showed up to that run on a very rainy morning. I was blown away. We raised $30,000, which I was amazed about, and then we had a friend who matched it. So, we raised $60,000 for our first run. At the 5K run we had last year after a two year hiatus due to covid, we had 600 people show up. Every year it’s gotten bigger and bigger, and we’ve raised more and more money. I think we raised $90,000 last year. So that is one of my proud moments. Showing somebody that “You may not believe in my mission, but the community does.” I feel like we’ve made a mark on the community that way. We’ve done a lot to try and educate people about substance use disorders and assist the community with a variety of needs such as, arranging educational speaker engagements, financial assistance for early recovery needs and grief support.
Looking ahead, what are your plans and aspirations for the future of Steps4Hope? How do you envision it growing or evolving?
I always think about that because in the beginning I was very motivated. I wanted to do everything. Then I realized I can’t save the world; I have to focus on my community and change what I can. We are currently funding a new program called “Addiction, Recovery & The Grief In-between” which I feel very positive about and I feel like that will be my focus for the future. I hope to help grow and fund the program to reach as many people as we can. It provides support and education for people in recovery houses and helps them with their understanding and acceptance of the grief that comes along with their losses from addiction. The program works on being able to process the pain, the loss, and the suffering, while rebuilding self-worth, integrity, and purpose. Our hope is that we can empower them enough and give them the tools they will need to stay sober during their most challenging times. We are in three recovery homes now. It’s an eight week program that I think is fantastic. It adds another layer of support for the recovery community.
How has Steps4Hope positively impacted your own grieving process and healing journey?
I don’t want to be dramatic, but you can curl up in a ball after a tragedy like this and you could go into a deep hole, or you can take the tragedy and try to make something good for other people. Helping other people is healing. It’s very therapeutic and Steps4Hope allows me to do that in Jonathan’s memory and honor. Everything I do, every scholarship I give, I always make sure that they know that this is from Jonathan. I’m a nice person but he was a whole lot nicer, and he’s made me so much better. So that’s what it’s done for me.
What advice would you give to others who are considering starting a memorial fund to honor their loved one’s memory?
My first piece of advice would be to contact CharitySmith because they make it very easy. I would say choose a fun fundraiser because that’s kind of what it’s all about to begin with. You have to get the funds to be able to do anything. Surround yourself with a lot of good, supportive people who are willing to help you. Don’t try and do it on your own because you can’t. I think once you have all of that nailed down, take your time finding the right mission that would be meaningful to you and more importantly to your loved one. If it would be meaningful to Jonathan, I’m very happy to do it. I know that he would be proud of everything we’ve done in his honor, so I think that it’s vital that you find the right mission.
Can you describe the process of setting up Steps4Hope and how CharitySmith’s support has made a difference?
I’ve been with CharitySmith for nine years, maybe a little longer. I don’t know another organization like CharitySmith. They have made it easy for me to set up a nonprofit fund. They file all the paperwork and send out the donations. All we have to do is raise the funds and decide where they will make the biggest impact. I don’t know if I would be able to do it on my own. CharitySmith is truly amazing.
Have you encountered any unexpected moments of inspiration or support along this journey that have touched you deeply?
So many. When we have our 5K runs, we invite speakers who have a direct relationship to Steps4Hope and they bravely get up in front of hundreds of people and tell their story. I am always inspired by these men and women who have been able to pick themselves up from the worst situations and become successful. Those are the people who inspire me the most. The people who find their way through this horrible disease and come out the other side to live their lives productively again.
What message would you like to convey to those who have supported Steps4Hope and those who may be interested in joining your cause in the future?
From deep in my heart, I have such gratitude for the support that they’ve shown our family. We would never have been able to do any of this without the support of our family, friends, and community. I am so grateful for each person who remembers Jonathan and supports us in any way. To anyone who would like to help us make a difference, I would encourage you to be present at the next event, donate, or find out what you could do to help us plan and run an event. We are always looking for help.
As we conclude our conversation with Pam Moules and the inspiring journey of Steps4Hope, we invite you to take action and be part of this transformative mission. Your support can make a tangible difference in the lives of those affected by addiction.
Visit Steps4Hope.org today to learn more about their initiatives, access their incredible resources, discover ways to get involved, and contribute to the ongoing fight against addiction. In doing so, you join a community dedicated to raising awareness, eliminating stigma, and saving lives—a community built on the enduring spirit of hope and the belief that positive change is not only possible but within our grasp.