On October 11, 2013, Rick and Lisa Stavola’s world was turned upside down when they experienced every parent’s most horrific nightmare. Their son, Tigger, lost his life to a seven-year battle with opiate addiction. He was 25 years old.
“Tigger was a loving child. He always stuck up for the underdogs. He loved young children, animals, and had a strong sense of family.” Tigger, who’s real name was Richard J. Stavola Jr, had dreams like every child. He wanted to be successful in business, get married, and have his own children. In 2013, the year of his passing, there were 8,257 deaths from heroin overdose in the United States, and 557 of those were New Jersey residents (statistics according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse). Even as the family grieved the loss of their son and brother, they felt compelled to take action. In 2014, in memory of Tigger, Rick and Lisa Stavola, along with their son, Alex, created the Tigger Stavola Foundation, an organization dedicated to combating the opioid epidemic and changing the stigma surrounding addiction. The foundation’s mission is to raise awareness and save lives. “Medical centers turned us away, telling us there was no help,” recalled Lisa Stavola. “A child growing up in an affluent family doing drugs was looked at as spoiled, and as a mother and father, we were shamed for our child’s addiction.” The Stavola Family dug deep to face the harsh realities that all families are presented with in the face of this ruthless epidemic. Through the vision and fortitude of Tigger Stavola Foundation, they are changing the conversation surrounding opioid addiction in Monmouth County and providing support to thousands in need. Tigger's younger brother Alex founded the Tigger Stavola Foundation Ambassadors Program designed for young adults to provide awareness and support to other young adults against opiate addiction. Tigger had a heart of gold and as a child he always reached out to help others close to him and in the community. It is only fitting that we honor him by extending a hand to others in the same way, as an offering to those who suffer from opiate addiction.