Walk­ing for hope

Hundreds at­tend an­nual re­cov­ery walk

Cecil Whig - - FRONT PAGE - By JOE ANTOSHAK

jan­toshak@ches­pub.com

— Satur­day’s bleak skies did noth­ing to dampen the mood be­hind the Ce­cil County Cir­cuit Court, where hundreds con­gre­gated for the sixth an­nual Re­cov­ery Walk and Block Party.

All around the park­ing lot were dif­fer­ent sto­ries, dif­fer­ent t- shirts, dif­fer-

ELK­TON

ent stages of re­cov­ery. But a com­mon theme emerged from the many par­tic­i­pants: ad­dic­tion had, at some point, struck close to home, and they gath­ered there to sup­port those on the path to so­bri­ety.

Joseph Parker Sr., a 30- year- old who’s bat­tled opi­ate ad­dic­tion for half his life and been home­less off and on the past five years, said on Satur­day that he was just days

away from begin­ning re­ha­bil­i­ta­tive treat­ment. On Tues­day, he’ll ad­mit him­self to a methadone and detox clinic called A. F. Whit­sitt Cen­ter in Ch­ester­town, Md.

Parker grew up in Ch­e­sa­peake City, and his ad­dic­tion took hold at a young age. When he was 15, he started sell­ing his mother’s pre­scrip­tion nar­cotics to help their fam­ily pay rent. Be­fore long, he was abus­ing opi­ates and ben­zo­di­azepines, more com­monly known as “ben­zos.”

Ad­dic­tion has wreaked havoc on both him and his fam­ily for as long as he can remember. He’s had a num­ber of run-ins with the law; his mother took her own life.

Now, he’d like to break that trend. He has two boys — an 11-year-old named Joseph Jr., and a 9- year- old named Jor­dan.

“I’m not there to sup­port them right now,” he said. “Even if I hit the lot­tery to­mor­row, I couldn’t buy back that time. There’s no buy­ing time.”

In a county con­sid­ered some­thing of a mid­way point for drug traf­fick­ing be­tween Philadel­phia and Bal­ti­more, where traf­fic stops have yielded sev­eral ma­jor drug busts in just the last few months, for many the Re­cov­ery Walk rep­re­sents hope. By 10 a. m., scores of par­tic­i­pants had lined up to reg­is­ter and get their neon green t- shirts.

Around 10: 30 a. m., lo­cal en­ter­tainer and event em­cee Jack Fore­aker ( who’s a re­cov­er­ing al­co­holic 36 years sober him­self, as well as ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor at the Elk­ton treat­ment cen­ter Haven House), in­tro­duced new Ce­cil County Cir­cuit Court Judge Will Davis, who spoke briefly to a small crowd be­fore the walk be­gan.

“I just want you to know that you’re not alone,” Davis said, be­fore not­ing his goal to es­tab­lish a first of­fender drug court, “to catch you at the begin­ning, rather than later on.” That was met with some ap­plause.

The walk kicked off at about 10: 40 a.m., with mem­bers of the all- sober Phoenix Mo­tor­cy­cle Club lead­ing the way. Par­tic­i­pants fol­lowed a loop around town that took about 20 min­utes to com­plete for most.

For Michael “Pretty Boy” Stewart, a life­long Elk­ton res­i­dent and the pres­i­dent of Phoenix M. C.’ s lo­cal ex­ten­sion, the mat­ter of ad­dic­tion is a press­ing one. The club, which has chap­ters along the East Coast, re­quires that its mem­bers stay com­pletely sober.

Last Mon­day, a for­mer mem­ber died. He’d been kicked out of the group af­ter re­laps­ing some months ago.

“It’s re­ally im­por­tant [to ad­dress],” Stewart said. “I’ve been around Elk­ton my whole life, so I’ve seen the drugs, the demise. But I’ve also seen the re­cov­ery.

“And that’s what it’s about, sav­ing lives.”

On Satur­day, there were plenty of suc­cess sto­ries. There was Kevin Mitchell, a 40-year-old Elk­ton man clean from heroin for about 22 months and mar­i­juana for roughly a year, who vol­un­teered his time to help reg­is­ter par­tic­i­pants for the walk.

“I feel so much bet­ter now that I’m clean,” Mitchell said.

There was Al­bert Clark, a 24-year-old who’s been off heroin for 21 months and pre­par­ing to wean him­self off the methadone he re­ceives at Seren­ity Health in Elk­ton.

“If I can help one per­son out of 10, I’ll feel like I did some­thing,” Clark said. “Be­cause I was that one per­son.”

There was also an area ded­i­cated to a dif­fer­ent kind of sec­ond chance. The East Coast Adop­tion Agency, which res­cues dogs from high-kill shel­ters in Alabama, Ten­nessee and Ge­or­gia, set up a a ta­ble and ken­nel area to­ward the back of the block party.

“To show peo­ple that th­ese guys re­ally need homes, that they come from rough up­bring­ings,” said Erica Price, who heads a lo­cal di­vi­sion with her hus­band Jim, while both chil­dren and adults bent to pet the pup­pies around her.

The block party fea­tured mu­sic and ven­tril­o­quism by Fore­aker, and around 15 to 20 tents scat­tered across the park­ing lot. Some sold craft items like can­dles, some were for treat­ment clin­ics, an­other sought to reg­is­ter vot­ers and re­cruit elec­tion judges.

Event or­ga­niz­ers like Elaine Bar­clay and Theresa Hamp­ton, who have been a part of all six of Elk­ton’s Re­cov­ery Walks, could be spot­ted dart­ing from place to place, per­son to per­son, of­fer­ing smiles and en­cour­age­ment to those they knew well.

An­other or­ga­nizer, CEO of Seren­ity Health Nancy Turner, spoke to the grav­ity and im­por­tance of the walk: “It re­ally brings out the un­der­stand­ing of how wide­spread sub­stance abuse is.”

For a brief time be­fore noon, it ap­peared the clouds would break and show some blue. They didn’t, not un­til later in the af­ter­noon, but that didn’t seem to mat­ter much.

In one park­ing lot in Elk­ton, the peo­ple fo­cused on the task they had at hand, which on this day hap­pened to be each other.

CE­CIL WHIG PHOTO BY JOE ANTOSHAK

Joey Hunt, an Elk­ton man liv­ing in an ad­dic­tion treat­ment cen­ter called So­lu­tions House, com­pletes the fi­nal stretch of Satur­day’s Re­cov­ery Walk along Main Street.

CE­CIL WHIG PHOTO BY JOE ANTOSHAK

The Re­cov­ery Walk be­gan around 10:40 a.m., with mem­bers of the Phoenix Mo­tor­cy­cle Club — a sober group — lead­ing the way.

CE­CIL WHIG PHOTO BY JOE ANTOSHAK

Mem­bers of the Phoenix Mo­tor­cy­cle Club, from left to right: “Kee­bler,” “Pretty Boy,” “Chief,” “One Time,” “Prospect” and “Twisted.”

CE­CIL WHIG PHOTO BY JOE ANTOSHAK

The first song lo­cal en­ter­tainer Jack Fore­aker sang af­ter the Re­cov­ery Walk was a play­ful one about 12-step pro­grams. The cho­rus went some­thing like, “We don’t need a drink / to throw a party. / Work­ing on the steps / to get re­cov­ery started.”

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