Walk for Addiction makes a statement.
Over the weekend, on a mild Saturday morning, about 75 community members met at the Midland Towne Center Plaza.
They welcomed each other warmly. Some shook hands and smiled while others embraced with affection. Some were family and others were friends and peers. Some were acquaintances and others were complete strangers, but together they all share a common goal: to end the shame and stigma surrounding addiction.
Midland organization For a Brighter Tomorrow held its second annual Walk for Addiction along with PEER360 Recovery Alliance.
For a Brighter Tomorrow is a non-profit organization geared toward assisting recovering substance abusers overcome obstacles that interfere with a successful recovery. PEER360 is an organization that networks with For a Brighter Tomorrow and exists to serve the diverse recovery communities, their families, friends and allies.
Individually, these organizations provide hope, support and unity. Together, they provide a voice, a voice that rang loud during the two-mile walk down the blacktop path on Patrick Road as they encouraged those in recovery to do it loud and proud — recover out loud.
“I think that it’s important for people to realize that addiction is a disease,” said Lori Wood, co-founder of For a Brighter Tomorrow. “The people who battle it need love and support. They need to know that there are people who care and are willing to help. For a Brighter Tomorrow is here to help anybody who needs services in recovery.”
Wood lost her daughter, Ashely, to addiction in 2012 when she was 28 years old.
She continued, “The support the community has shown today has been amazing. Even with everything else going on today like the Dow Run/Walk and Midland Bloom, so many people showed up to support this cause. Not only that, but with us walking down the busy road, we had a lot of honking and acknowledging as we carried a sign that said “No stigma. No shame. Recover out loud.”
“I think that the best thing we can do is involve the community in these things, such as this walk, to bring the entire community together so that the people with the disease of addiction can see all the love and support that they have,” she said. “More and more people’s lives are being touched every day by addiction and more and more people are starting to understand that it is a disease. I am hoping that the more events we have, the more the community can come together.”
Mary Knowlton, co-founder of For a Brighter Tomorrow, added, “It is so important that they know that they don’t have to hide it and they won’t be judged. It’s time to end the shame and break the stigma, not only in this community, but in every community.”
Kelly Donoghue and her parents, Jerry and Karen, walked together to support the cause and embrace the recover out loud concept together. Kelly has been in recovery from opiates and marijuana for 26 months, which has not only brought fulfillment to her life but to her parents as well.
“I really think this walk is a step in the right direction,” she said. “We need to make the community aware that we are not druggies or alcoholics and not to label, we are people with a disease.”
Kelly explained that since she has been in recovery her life has changed dramatically. She said that she rebuilt relationships within her family, works full time, she has good friends and a loving boyfriend, she feels good emotionally and has found God.
“Recovery has done so much for me,” she said. “I am able to function fully today, and for that, I am so grateful.
Her parents agreed to that statement and expressed their gratitude as well.
“It’s like having our daughter back again,” said Karen, with Jerry agreeing.
“We need more of this community involvement,” Jerry said. “Instead of looking at addicts, we must remember that we are looking at people.”
And while many of the people are in recovery, family members and friends walked with gratitude for their new-found freedom. The walk also served as a reminder and memorial to some who lost their battle with addiction.
Along the path, signs were placed throughout the whole course with individual names, each one in memory. There were 10 signs this year.
One of those names was Zachary Spaulding, who lost his battle with addiction in 2013. His parents, Terry and Susan Hanley, walked to support those fighting the battle, those in recovery, remembering those who didn’t make it and supporting their loved ones.
“To me it is great to get everybody together for recovery,” Terry said. “It shows that this community does care and we have a lot of support in this area for recovering addicts. No stigma, no shame. I think we showed that today.”
“I feel like we are making a significant difference,” added Susan. “It’s important because those in addiction and recovery need to know that they are not alone.”
The Hanleys own a local embroidery shop, Hanley’s Custom Sports, and made each custom sign, free of charge.
“We try to offer the families who have lost someone that I make their sign for free,” Terry explained. “To me that’s important. I mean if they are out there walking, to me that’s important. For us, the sign shows that Zack is still alive in us and in this walk, and people need to know his story.”
Susan nodded in agreement and added, “It is so important for people to understand that it can happen to anybody. And I mean anybody. We need to educate and raise awareness, and that’s what we are doing here.”
“And you can’t just leave it in your household,” Terry Hanley said. “We just want people to know that we are here for them. They need to get out and know that there are people here for them, who are willing to listen to them and hear their story. We encourage them to come on out.”
For a Brighter Tomorrow encourages community involvement with those in recovery as they hope to end the stigma and end the shame. Recovering out loud is encouraged so that the community can come together.
On July 19 at Plymouth Park Fun Zone, For a Brighter Tomorrow will host a Recovery Fest to support and celebrate recovery. This event will be open for family, friends and the community to join in.
Bella Lindauer, for the Daily News Published 8:30 am, Wednesday, May 24, 2017