Tyler Onesty died at age 22, a victim of drug addiction. His mother, Sally Onesty, has since worked tirelessly to prevent similar tragedies. By Maddy VitaleOcean City resident and business owner Sally Onesty, who lost her son to drugs, said she was overjoyed about being selected for the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Award for her support of individuals and families battling the effects of addiction. The celebration will be held at noon Monday at the Bill and Nancy Hughes Performing Arts Center of Ocean City High School. Onesty, 48, who works with several area groups to help families of those battling addiction and the victims themselves, said she was surprised by the nomination and selection.She said when Michael Hartman, the city’s director of Special Events, informed her that she would be recognized, she became emotional.“I started bawling my eyes out. I just didn’t believe it,” Onesty said Saturday in an interview at her A Bella Salon & Spa in Ocean City. “I just think it is amazing that I was recognized because there are so many people who do a lot of amazing work to help people who have drug addiction.”She works with area organizations, including “Stop the Heroin,” “Angels in Motion” and “Parent to Parent.” Her phone doesn’t stop, seven days a week, with calls from advocates and people struggling with addiction who need guidance on where to go for help.Onesty said what pleases her most is that the city sees there is a problem with drug addiction in Ocean City and throughout Cape May County and the country.“Ocean City is a dry town, a conservative town. As a community, we have to realize there is a drug problem out there,” Onesty said. “It means a lot to me that I am being recognized on MLK Day because it is a day of community service. That is what I have done all of my life.”Ever since her 22-year-old son, Tyler Onesty, a 2012 graduate of Ocean City High School, passed away in March of 2017 after taking a lethal dose of heroin mixed with fentanyl, Onesty has helped other drug abusers to get into detox and rehab centers.She and her husband Marte, and Tyler’s younger brother, Zach, went through drug intervention in an effort to save Tyler. For two years, they placed him in drug rehabilitation centers in New Jersey, Florida and California. Tyler foreshadowed his own death, telling his mother one day that his addiction would kill him, Sally Onesty recalled while becoming teary-eyed.Over the past two years, Onesty has worked with parents, students, local schools, city officials, the police, churches, hospitals, drug abuse organizations and other groups on a communitywide coalition to fight addiction. Tyler Onesty is pictured with his younger brother, Zach, while playing miniature golf in Maine in 2003. (Courtesy Sally Onesty)The family created the Tyler J. Onesty Scholarship Fund two years ago, with the funds to be used for people going into the medical, mental health and addiction fields as well as trades.Every month her salon supports different causes, such as recovery houses, shelters for victims of sexual assault and animal shelters.She said it is all part of building a better community.“My whole goal when I opened the salon 20 years ago was to make it a community-based salon and take care of the community,” Onesty explained. “I have a strong faith.”She uses that faith to carry her through her toughest times. “When you lose a child, it is the hardest thing. My son passed away, but his funeral was not the last one I have attended. I have been to funerals a lot,” Onesty said.The funerals are for those who, like Tyler Onesty, fought addiction, but couldn’t beat it and it ultimately took their lives.“I say to the parents, ‘I understand what you are going through, and I am here for you if you need to talk,’” Onesty noted.Her giving nature and her desire to help others was something Tyler inherited from her, she said.“Tyler always wanted to help people get into detox programs. He was always for the underdog. He stood up for kids who weren’t like everyone else,” she said. “He was loved, and he had a presence. There was just something different – something special about him.”Onesty pledged to continue to work with organizations and groups to raise awareness about drug addiction that plagues society. It isn’t a choice she made, but one she must continue, she said.“I don’t love that I have to do this. It is an education I never wanted,” Onesty noted. “But it is important to use the knowledge I have to educate people and hopefully save a life.” Sally Onesty, joined by her son, Zach, during a 2017 Ocean City Board of Education meeting, continues her fight against opioid addiction following the overdose death of her son, Tyler.