Young people will come together Friday night to grieve the death of 18-year-old Kelly C. Johnson who reportedly lost her struggle with substance abuse on Saturday, according to her obituary.
Andover Youth Services is inviting youths and others to an open and caring environment "in an effort to begin healing, conversation and loving support for the emotions and feelings swirling in all of us," says the event listing that was posted on Facebook Thursday night.
The gathering will take place Friday from 7 to 10 p.m. at Old Town Hall, 20 Main St.
Johnson, the daughter of William and Gail Johnson, was raised in Andover and attended Andover schools, including South School and Andover High School, where she was an athlete as recent as last year. She was a member of the class of 2015 at North Shore Recovery High School in Beverly, and was planning to attend college in the fall, according to an extended obituary posted on the website of Farmer & Dee Funeral Home in Tewksbury. She reportedly was most recently living in Reading.
Calling her "the sunshine in the lives of her family and friends" in the obituary, the family says, "If we do not speak out and shine a light on this disease, the status quo will continue, more young adults will die and people will continue to grieve in silence."
The obituary describes Johnson as a compassionate, loving and selfless young lady ... intelligent, funny and full of life and promise." She loved music, soccer and spending time with her friends, and was always the first person to lend a helping hand to a family member, friend or anyone in need.
It says that her final days were spent surrounded by family and friends who she touched in her short, but memorable life. In addition to her parents, Johnson leaves two sisters, Nicole and Meagan.
People are encouraged to bring loving memories, mementos and photographs to share at Friday's gathering.
"There will be food and caring members from the community, music and plenty of hugs to go around. We ask that you speak with your friends and family about this, attend with them and spread this message," the event listing says.
Johnson's family is encouraging everyone to attend a funeral Mass celebrating her life on Saturday at noon at St. Augustine's Church, 43 Essex St., Andover. Interment will follow at Spring Grove Cemetery, Andover. At the request of the family, there are no calling hours or procession from the funeral home. Mourners are asked to meet at the church.
In lieu of flowers, donations in her memory are being asked to support the Addiction Recovery Management Service program at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, which supports adolescents and young adults between the ages of 14 and 26 with their substance use and related problems.