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Hays County man's fentanyl-related death leads to new foundation

Connor's Heart aims to raise awareness and funds in hopes of preventing more overdoses from fentanyl. The organization is holding a benefit concert Sunday.

AUSTIN, Texas — Losing a child is a parent's worst nightmare. But losing a child to a fentanyl overdose is a growing crisis in Central Texas and across the country.

According to the Hays County Sheriff's Office, 37 people either overdosed or died as a result of fentanyl poisoning in the county in 2022.

Now, the parents of one of those victims are on a mission to raise awareness about the dangers of fentanyl so no other family has to go through what they did.

For Lisa Keltner, remembering her son, Connor Pearson, is bittersweet.

"He was wonderful," she said. "He was just outgoing, he had a great smile, he was funny. And I miss him."

Keltner described Connor as an animal lover who enjoyed motocross as a teenager. He attended Bowie High School and Garza High School.  

"Losing a child is like nothing else," Lisa Keltner said. "I didn't get to say goodbye."

It has been a little over a year since her son died. She still remembers the moment her mother called her with the news.

"'I just wanted to let you know Connor is gone. He's dead.' I was just sitting there in shock," Lisa Keltner said.

Pearson, 24, died from fentanyl poisoning at his home in Hays County in July 2022.

"He got these pills that he thought were Xanax, and they happen to be fentanyl pills," Lisa Keltner said.

Since then, Lisa Keltner has changed careers so she can help others battling addiction. A few months ago, she and her husband, Lance, started a foundation called Connor's Heart.

"Nobody thinks anything is going to kill them when they're in their 20s," Lance Keltner said.

The goal of Connor's Heart is to save lives by talking about the dangers of fentanyl, dispelling misconceptions and raising money for treatment and testing kits. Connor's Heart is working with RecoveryATX.

"We're facing a drug epidemic beyond anything we have ever seen before, and this drug is being put into everything," Lance Keltner said.

Released this week, the latest song from his band, Lance Keltner and Nuevo Retro, honors Connor Pearson and all the lives lost to fentanyl poisoning. 

According to the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS), fentanyl poisoning-related deaths have increased every year since 2018, when there were 212.

In 2019, there were 317 fentanyl-related deaths. In 2020, the number more than doubled to 891. In 2021, the number jumped again to 1,645. In 2022, the number of fentanyl-related deaths in Texas hit 2,161.

As of June 29, 2023, 540 Texans have died from fentanyl poisonings so far this year.

Connor's Heart is hosting a benefit concert on Sunday, Aug. 13, at Emo's in Austin. The night of music will feature performances by Eric Johnson with Roscoe Beck, David Grissom, Vallejo, Lance Keltner and Nuevo Retro and Guy Forsyth.

Tickets are $45 and available online. Doors open at 6 p.m. and the show will kick off at 7 p.m.

Event organizers say anyone who doesn’t already have tickets to the Sunday concert at Emo’s can simply show-up and donate any amount they can to get into the show. Attendees will get to see Austin music greats Eric Johnson with Roscoe Beck, David Grissom, Vallejo and Lance Keltner and Nuevo Retro and others.

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