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At annual Night of Music, friends and family remember a man lost to opioids — and work to fight the crisis

Courtesy of the Steve Rummler Hope Network
Night of Music is a fundraiser and awareness-building opportunity for the Steve Rummler Hope Network, an important time for members of Rummler’s old band The Gooneybirds to get together and play songs in memory of their friend.

Every year for the last six years, a group of Lexi Reed Holtum’s friends and family members get together for a big party at Tuttle’s in Hopkins. It’s a fun night, with food, refreshments, music and lots of dancing, but for Reed Holtum and many of the other guests, it’s also a little sad.

The event, known as Night of Music, is a fundraiser and awareness-building opportunity for the Steve Rummler Hope Network, an important time for members of Rummler’s old band The Gooneybirds to get together and play songs in memory of their friend. This year it will happen on Sunday, Jan. 14.

Rummler, Reed Holtum’s fiancé and longtime Gooneybirds member, died of a heroin overdose in 2011 at age 43. His death was, Reed Holtum explained, the tragic end to a powerful addiction to opioid-based pain medication, drugs that had originally been prescribed after a back injury.

Devastated by the loss of their friend, Rummler’s bandmates came up with the idea of Night of Music as a way to keep his memory alive while supporting the mission of the Steve Rummler Hope Network, the opioid-overdose awareness nonprofit Reed Holtum founded in the wake of his death.

“After Steve passed, his friends and bandmates decided they wanted to honor him by hosting the Night of Music,” Reed Holtum said. “Steve had been playing with The Gooneybirds since they were all in high school.” The group often played at local bars like The Cabooze and at Tuttle’s, she explained. “They had a large fan base that extended way back to high school, college and after college.”

When Rummler’s friends started talking about Night of Music, Reed Holtum said, “Tuttle’s owner Mike Tuttle was a good friend of Steve’s, so he offered to let us use the venue every year.” Night of Music has been there ever since.

A party with a purpose

The annual event is important to everyone connected to the Steve Rummler Hope Network, Reed Holtum said.

“I’m always moved by the love and support that I experience and that Steve and his family have. The community connections are incredible. And his bandmates were his brothers on so many levels.”

Lexi Reed Holtum

It was important to Rummler’s friends that they honor him with music, Reed Holtum said. “Every demographic is hit hard by opioid addiction, but addiction does seem to hit the music community in particularly high rates. His friends thought a night of music was the most appropriate way to honor him.”

The featured entertainers on Sunday will be the Gooneybirds (of course) and local rock ‘n roll band Medium Rustic. “They are both really fun dance bands,” Reed Holtum said.

But the evening will be more than a jam session. While the event officially begins at 5, the music doesn’t start until 7. The first part of the evening is traditionally a time for education about opioid addiction and overdose and an update on the work of the Rummler Hope Network.

“On that night we always work to create public awareness of the current state of the opioid crisis,” Reed Holtum said. “We talk about potential solutions and how we can better serve our communities and each other. There is an advocacy piece to the night, too: It is the kickoff to our legislative session work and the bill that we are bringing back from last year.”

There is also a focus on small actions that individuals can take to help reduce opioid addiction and overdose deaths.

“Everybody has a primary care doctor,” Reed Holtum said. “Not all doctors are following the CDC guidelines on prescribing opioids. We want to give people knowledge about what to expect then they go to their prescribers, to know that they do not have to accept high does of opioids to treat their ailments. People need to know that they do not have to take a prescription when it is offered to them. They can even educate their prescribers. We teach people how to do that.”

Most important of all, Reed Holtum said, is the annual public training in how to use the powerful overdose-reversing drug, Naloxone.

“We show attendees how to recognize and respond to an opioid overdose. We explain what they should expect in those circumstances. We let them know that it is their right as citizens of Minnesota to carry and administer Naloxone. And we give each of them a Naloxone kit.”

Bittersweet gathering

Each year, after the business portion of the night wraps up, the music begins. The crowd, many big Gooneybirds fans, lets loose, dancing and reconnecting with one another, focusing on fun and music and working out excess energy that has built up from all the serious discussion.

Dancing and listening to your favorite bands is a great way to release tension and build connections, Reed Holtum knows, but for her the night never feels as fun as it should.

“It always reminds me that Steve’s not here anymore,” she said. “It’s heartbreaking. No matter how much fun we are having at the party, this reality will always be part of our collective grief and loss. It moves me to tears because these individuals are my family, too.”

Reed Holtum said that she doesn’t feel sad all night. Mixed with her tears are a strong feeling of support, a palpable sense of love for the man who was lost and a glimmer of hope for the future.

“The fact that we are all so committed to making a difference, not only in Steve’s name, but in the names of the hundreds of thousands of Americans that have been lost to opioid overdose, lifts me up,” Reed Holtum said.

As inspired as she feels, Reed Holtum admits that every year as Night of Music approaches, she’s filled with a lingering feeling of dread.

“It’s painful,” she said. “Steve was a treasure and a gift and he died needlessly. It’s hard every year. It’s sad. We all miss him so much. But,” she said, shifting gears, “it is an honor that they keep doing this for him and for the organization. It reminds us that we can have joy in our lives even in the midst of tragedy. We can create solutions to this crisis. It’s a worthwhile event, and I’m so happy to be part of it.”

The 6th Annual Night of Music will begin at 5 p.m., with music beginning at 7 p.m., on Sunday, Jan. 14, at Tuttle’s Bowl in Hopkins. For more information, go here.

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