PEKIN — The Fight the Fight addiction awareness group will partner with the non-profit drug and alcohol treatment services provider Gateway Foundation to host the Third Annual Fight the Fight Addiction Awareness Walk.
“The walk is to bring education and awareness to our community,” said Wendy McCready, president and co-founder of Fight the Fight. “We’re trying to remove the stigma that surrounds addiction, and we provide resources on our walk for families and addicts.”
McCready helped form Fight the Fight after her 24-year-old son Alan Vaughn died in 2015 from a heroin overdose.
“I felt that something needed to be done,” she said. “About a year after I lost my son, the group was established.”
The Fight the Fight Addiction Awareness Walk will take place Aug. 11 at Mineral Spring Park in Pekin from 1 to 3 p.m. It is a free event for all ages. Guest speakers will include people who have lost loved ones to addiction, individuals in recovery, and professionals in the addiction field. Justin Robbins Band will provide entertainment. After a release of doves in memory of area residents who lost their lives due to substance abuse, the event will conclude with a walk around the lagoon at Mineral Spring Park.
“At our walk this year, we also want to recognize those who are in recovery, because they are warriors,” said McCready. “We’re giving them all a white carnation at the event, and we’re going to ask them to stand in front of the stage. Then, before we do our dove release, we’ll say a few words in recognition of their hard work toward recovery.”
During the event, T-shirts, hoodies, pain medication alternatives and other items will be available for purchase. Proceeds will go toward helping people struggling with addiction pay for rent at a Sober Living House upon completing inpatient rehabilitation.
“We raise enough money to put six or seven people a year into Sober Living,” said McCready. “We just cover their first month’s rent, which could be anywhere from $300 to $500. In that first month, they’re expected to get jobs and get money for their next month’s rent on their own. It’s really just to help them get on their feet. Generally, when people go into Sober Living, it really increases their chances of leading productive, sober lives.”
Although fundraising activities will take place at the walk, the event’s primary focus is education, according to Gateway Foundation Clinical Supervisor Pekin Office Brandon Underwood. Tables with information on addiction and recovery will be available, and the JOLT Foundation, a Peoria-based non-profit group, will provide free training in the use of the opioid antidote NARCAN and complementary kits.
“The primary purpose is to make people aware that not only is addiction a disease that can kill people, but also of the help that’s available for people who want to stop using, get well, and lead productive lives,” he said.
Gateway Foundation Outreach Coordinator Debbie Kuhns promoted the walk as more than a way to educate the community on the current opioid addiction crisis in the United States. It is also an opportunity for people struggling with addiction to find information and resources, and a chance for families who have lost a loved one to addiction or have a loved one struggling with substance abuse to connect with people who share similar experiences.
“We’re trying to be part of the community and give back to it,” she said. “We see a lot of clients here in the Pekin area for treatment. We’re doing various things to let the community know we’re here to help. It takes a village with the opioid crisis going on, and it takes all sorts of resources to fight the battle.”