The Dangers of Fentanyl: Jaydynn’s Light

Jaydynn Taylor Hogan - Forever 16

In July of 2021, our family took a trip to visit my in-laws in the mountains of Idaho. We decided to spend one of our days breathing in the fresh air and majestic views of Ponderosa State Park. It was a Sunday and it was perfection. It was hot, but not stifling, the lake was cold, but refreshing, and the clouds floated above providing the perfect combination of sun and shade. I remember wading in the water while my son dug in the mud, my husband swishing our daughter back and forth as she giggled with glee, and being so grateful that we could all share the joy of this trip together as they are so rare as a military family. When I look back on the pictures from that morning, I am grateful I can now feel some of the joy that morning brought because the rest of that day, July 25, 2021, became a complete nightmare.

At some point during our play, I headed over to the picnic table to grab something. I recall rummaging through a bag, but then noticed my cell phone was lit up at the bottom of a netted sack. I saw it was my brother calling, so I grabbed it and answered with my usual, “Hey!” I know so many can relate to what was about to come next because there is something about “those calls” that eerily provides us with this intuition that something is not right. I had that feeling and immediately knew that something was terribly, terribly wrong. The words that followed disintegrated all of the joy, excitement and happiness that had enveloped me all morning into tears of despair and disbelief. My world went black – almost as if hearing my brother’s words was like an out of body experience. He was calling to tell me that his 16-year-old daughter, Jaydynn, had passed away that morning from what was believed to be Fentanyl poisoning.

The night that followed Jaydynn’s death was excruciating. I left my family in Idaho and headed to Colorado the very next morning. I really do not think anyone can be prepared for a traumatic and shocking death. The unfamiliar, raw emotions that lay dormant or buried deep inside each one of us that do not surface until tragedy strikes and we are thrown into survival mode is a sadness all its own. I could have chosen many paths in dealing with Jaydynn’s loss. In fact, I witnessed the anger, the confusion and the hopelessness that surrounded me. Although I was also confused and simply could not understand how this happened, my faith showed up in the way of this un-explainable peace. It brought me the strength I needed to support my family and clarity to help keep my mind focused on the fond ways Jaydynn lived her life, not on the un-answered questions surrounding her death.

Jaydynn and I two weeks before she passed away.

Jaydynn was a force to be reckoned with! She was determined, strong-willed and funnier than all get out. She loved cheerleading, camping, fishing, cosmetics and art. She had an extremely creative mind that was just beginning to really blossom. She was not an addict. She did not have a “drug problem” and I believe with every part of me that she had no idea what fentanyl was. Neither did her family. She was so full of love and fiercely loved others. She carried this light with her that glowed through her strikingly blue eyes and lit up every room she entered. Her presence was always known. She was a protector, stood up for what she believed in and would do anything to help others. She was adored by her friends and family – many of whom felt the overwhelming need to show their support after she died by gifting us food. The abundance of food turned to donations, which then provided Jaydynn’s family with an opportunity to turn their mourning into a mission. They knew something hopeful had to come from something so devastating and they also knew they needed to make others aware of this drug called Fentanyl. They did not want any family to have to go through what they had to endure. So right before Christmas, five months after Jaydynn had passed away, the non-profit “Jaydynn’s Light” was officially born.

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is up to 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine. One kilogram of fentanyl has the potential to kill 500,000 people. Just 2 mg of fentanyl is considered a deadly dose (equivalent to two grains of sand). It is a highly addictive drug killing over 170 people per day. In 2022, the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) found that 6 out of 10 fake counterfeit pills were laced with a lethal dose of Fentanyl. Fake pills are tasteless, odorless and look identical to prescription pills. There is no way to tell the difference between a “real” pill and one that has been tampered with or altered. With a lethal dose being so minimal, this means just one pill or less can kill. According to the CDC, Fentanyl is now the leading cause of death for Americans ages 18-45.

Fentanyl poisoning is not the same as an overdose. A vast majority of teens and young adults who are victims of fentanyl poisoning are taking something for the first time with the belief that it will help them with depression, anxiety, sleep disorders and other mental health issues. Many that die from fentanyl poisoning have no idea of the risks associated with the drugs they are about to ingest. As with most untimely and unintentional deaths, the biggest question becomes “What if?” What if they did know about the dangers? What if they knew the risks? What if they had stopped and asked themselves, “Is Trying Worth Dying?”

The mission of Jaydynn’s Light is to continue Jaydynn’s legacy by raising awareness of and educating others on the dangers of illicit fentanyl, while also supporting families who have suffered a similar loss. In August of 2022, to support National Fentanyl Prevention and Awareness Day, Jaydynn’s Light held its first annual fundraiser selling luminaries to “Light up the Night” and bring attention to this awful pandemic. Over the past 18 months, Jaydynn’s Light has printed and distributed fliers, brochures and posters to local and state organizations, businesses and community members hoping that Jaydynn’s story will resonate with and encourage others to inform their family and friends about the dangers of fentanyl. Jaydynn’s Light urges anyone who experiments with any illegal or counterfeit drug to stop immediately as no drug is safe. The organization’s vision is to create an educated, drug free world where future generations will no longer have to stop and ask themselves, “Is Trying Worth Dying.”

The light that was inside of Jaydynn was so unbelievably bright. Through the darkness of her death, a fire was ignited that will continue to burn brighter and brighter until the war on Fentanyl has been won. One spark, then an ember and now a flame fueling a bonfire. Jaydynn’s light will never go out.

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction or mental health issues, please seek help by calling 1-800-662-4357. By simply reading this article, you now have the power to save someone’s life. Please share what you have learned, educate your friends and family members and follow us on social media for the latest and most updated information. If you would like more information on how you can support Jaydynn’s Light or would like resources for your community, please go to

I would like to personally thank the Military Mom Collective for allowing me the opportunity to share my niece’s story and for helping to raise awareness about the dangers of Fentanyl through the publishing of this article. No endorsement or financial contribution has been made to Jaydynn’s Light from the Military Mom Collective.

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Erin Stock
Erin grew up in Widefield, a small town just south of Colorado Springs, CO. Although she was surrounded by the military, she did not meet her husband, an Air Force Pilot, until they had both graduated from college. Erin has spent almost 20 years in education working as a classroom teacher, Literacy Specialist and Coach. Although Erin holds a MA in Educational Leadership and is also a National Board Certified Teacher, the best education Erin has ever received has been the gift of teaching across the nation. She credits the military with providing her the opportunity to learn more about education than she ever could have throughout her college years. Erin is a woman of faith and a mom to two young children. She is passionate about mental health support for spouses and also raises awareness regarding the dangers of Fentanyl. Erin and her family are currently serving their 7 th assignment in New Hampshire. She enjoys reading personal growth books and researching educational topics, but ends up spending the majority of her time playing with her kids, creating systems in her household, building a supportive community for spouses and dreaming of her forever home. She is also an occasional podcaster.