“It did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us.”

— Viktor Frank, in Man’s Search for Meaning

The book that had the most powerful impact on me after Emily’s death, was Victor Fankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning. If Frankl, a concentration camp survivor, could go on and even find meaning after experiencing so much horror, I could live by the very same words as well:

“…everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

My way was to try to make meaning out of my daughter’s senseless death and help others in the process. I had no idea that life would expect even more. I would eventually find myself called to devote 100 percent of myself to saving lives in this overdose/fentanyl poisoning epidemic we face in the United States. I had never imagined doing anything else in my life other than working as a journalist; especially as a visual storyteller. Now life is asking me to use the skills I have developed over the last four decades to fulfill a different purpose. 

When I was five, my grandfather gave me a tape recorder and I recorded interviews with all my relatives. At the age of 10, I thought a lot about what I wanted to be when I grew up, as kids often do. For girls of my generation, the answer to that question that was most acceptable was “teacher” or “nurse.” However,  even at that young age, I knew I wasn’t going to fit into that mold. I loved to write, a gift fostered in me by my mother, who was a teacher and a writer. While most girls were playing with dolls, my mother was giving me writing assignments and grading them. I’ve often thought that my love for journalism comes from fulfilling a dream that was not my own, but rather my mother’s. She had wanted to be a journalist, but found herself pregnant with me, while still in college, and became a teacher instead because it was a more dependable job. 

The turning point in my young life came when I was watching The Barbara Walter’s Special on TV at age 12. As I watched Barbara interview the stars and public figures of the day, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my life. I did not want to be the interviewee in the hot seat, whom Barbara almost always made cry or confess some deep, dark secret. I wanted to be the one asking the questions and I wanted to do it on TV. After that, everything in my life was directed toward obtaining the job I have now held for more than three decades. I wrote for my town newspaper, interviewed journalists for every school assignment possible, was editor of my high school newspaper and majored in journalism in college. After obtaining my master’s degree, I thought I might teach journalism full-time, but found that while I love mentoring young journalists, I enjoy practicing the craft of storytelling and documenting current events too much. 

I could never think of any other profession I wanted to work in as much as I did TV news, despite its incessant deadlines, crazy hours, horrendous competition, and often soul-crushing response by the audience. That last part has been especially brutal with the advent of social media and the political climate that demonizes journalists and has polarized people in our nation. But even that didn’t sway me from my love of journalism, with a capital J. 

However, on March 16, 2018, my life was turned upside down with the death of my oldest child, Emily, to fentanyl poisoning. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I could use the platform I had to raise awareness about this horrible epidemic, and the danger to all of our children, as well as educate people on substance use disorder. On top of all that, I could be a voice for parents just like me. There are hundreds of thousands of us and most suffer the loss of their children in silence, not to mention shame. Not only could I represent all of us, but I could also give them a voice, through my podcasts and try to destroy the stigma surrounding fentanly poisoning deaths. 

Life kept expecting more. I was raising funds, along with the help of an amazing community, to get people into treatment. I was speaking across the region and the country to students and parents. Plus, I was developing a prevention curriculum for elementary school students, thanks to the dedicated input of educators administrators, doctors, and counselors. Between my demanding TV job and running Emily’s Hope, I was stretched too thin. In January my health suffered. Something had to give. I knew it couldn’t be Emily’s Hope. Lives were at stake. I made the difficult decision to step away from TV news. I still love reporting. I will miss digging into stories and bringing new information to light. I will miss the camaraderie of the newsroom. I loved knowing that sometimes my stories truly made a difference. 

Now, I know everything I do for Emily’s Hope will have an impact. Even if one kid chooses not to experiment with drugs, I will have made a difference. Even if one person gets into treatment with the nudge of an Emily’s Hope Treatment Scholarship, I will have done my part. Even if one person comes to understand addiction, not as a moral failing, but as a disease of the brain, our mission is fulfilled. Even if one other parent knows they are not alone in their anguish and grief, it’s all worth it. 

I say “goodbye” to TV news with a knot in my stomach. Change is scary. But I take a deep breath and say “hello” to expanding the mission of Emily’s Hope with an open heart and desire to serve. That’s all it’s really ever been about anyway. 

Faith, Hope & Courage,


  • Angela Kennecke and Sammi Bjelland KELO KELOLAND
  • Angela Kennecke KELO KELOLAND
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9 responses

  1. Susan Bartz Herrick Avatar
    Susan Bartz Herrick

    Thank you for turning your pain into gain for other people. You indeed are saving lives. What you wrote about Frankel is very true. Reading his work also helped me put things in perspective. A spiritual soul group also helped my healing that as parents who have lost a child we can help ourselves heal by answering one question; “what can I do for the rest of my life to bring more love into the world in honor and memory of my child?“ You are an inspiration for us all.

  2. Lavonne Anderson Avatar
    Lavonne Anderson

    I believe in our journey of life, we follow a path that a higher power as set for us. Perhaps, not all but many. I could sense your preparation for journalism from a very young age and now you are moving on to develop Emily’s Hope with those skills learned in your career. Our household will miss you and your journalism skills and ability. Best of luck and Blessings in all you do!

  3. Carla Snyders Avatar
    Carla Snyders

    I am so inspired by your courage and drive to get the stigma of addiction changed, knowing that it really is not a fault of the person or their family. It is a nightmare that needs to be dealt with, openly and non-judgmental. The best of luck to you as you travel this journey. You are saving Lives!

  4. Renee Carter Avatar
    Renee Carter

    Thanks for all your help! You rock! I feel for you..I could never imagine the loss. God bless you and yours!

  5. Jayne Kolb Avatar
    Jayne Kolb

    Thank you for speaking out and helping people understand the nightmare of addiction and all the repercussions. I lost my son two years ago. Your words and those of others in your blog are helping me. I wish you the best and hope you continue to heal yourself by reaching out to others.

  6. Deb Goebel Avatar
    Deb Goebel

    My family will miss not seeing you on Kelo TV as a journalist. My son Jesse enjoyed working with you as your photojournalist for 9 years. Both of us lost our children way too soon. Even though they were under different circumstances, the loss of a child at any age for any reason hurts so much. Good luck to you as you keep doing what you have been doing only with more time and energy. God bless you as you save lives!

  7. Peg Younger Avatar
    Peg Younger

    Thank you, Angela. I’m in awe of your journalism career, but in greater awe of your grace, dignity, bravery, and growth as you have met the challenge of your beautiful daughter’s untimely death. I hope your tenacious work ethic will hope you grow Emily’s Hope to help all of us, and especially young people.

  8. Diane Ritter Avatar
    Diane Ritter

    Congratulations on a 30 year journalism and news career. KELO will not be the same without you. You and I share a lifetime painful occurrence by each losing a daughter in death in different circumstances.You are now able to pour yourself into a new career to make a difference to educate and work to curb further pain and use of lethal drugs. No doubt you will work tirelessly as you did as a journalist and investigative reporter. You are young and energetic yet and I know you will continue to be a success and will give it 100%. YOU GO GIRL!

  9. Teresa Snyder Avatar
    Teresa Snyder

    Love your courage and kindness in helping those who need you so desperately!
    Teresa Snyder

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