By SARA ARTHURS
This community needs to mourn those we have lost to overdoses — and, at the same time, to never lose sight of hope for those seeking help, said Ellyn Schmiesing, executive director of Focus.
Focus, a nonprofit recovery center for those experiencing mental heath issues, substance abuse or trauma, is organizing the fourth annual local Recovery Month celebration. Held in September, it will begin with an Aug. 31 unveiling of a memorial ribbon project to mark International Overdose Awareness Day, which has been commemorated since 2001 and began in Melbourne, Australia.
The local memorial is a large purple ribbon, to be filled with messages from community members. You can submit a memorial for someone you have lost. And if you don’t know someone personally affected, but you are a “recovery ally,” “you can also submit a message of hope for someone seeking recovery,” Schmiesing said.
Focus staff are collecting these messages and will print them out on silver paper for the memorials and on purple paper for the messages of hope, with the plan to fill half of the ribbon with each. You can contribute through Focus’ website or Facebook page, or by scanning a QR code displayed in the community.
The ribbon will be unveiled in a ceremony at Focus, 509 W. Trenton Ave., at 6 p.m. Aug. 31. “Resource people, rather than resource tables,” will be available for those who might need them. There will also be a memorial service for those lost, and people can create “memory lanterns.”
“When you’re at the Relay for Life and you see the candles, you’re moved by that,” Schmiesing said.
It’s a memorial to those who have been lost — and, at the same time, you see people walking, in support of the cause. Her hope is that people walk away from this memorial with the same feeling — honoring those who have been lost, but also recognizing the large amount of support, that “there is a community out there.”
Schmiesing hopes those who have lost loved ones will see “that people care. People care a lot.”
And, she hopes it will break down discrimination about addiction.
“All of those individuals were someone’s someone,” she said.
A message of hope typed for those struggling might be exactly what someone needs to hear, Schmiesing said, “on a piece of purple paper, on a giant ribbon — that they are worth it.”
After the unveiling, the ribbon will be displayed at various locations around town.
March and ride for recovery
Recovery Month will also feature a Recovery March and a Ride for Recovery, both on Sept. 15.
The march will start at the DOCK at St. Marks United Methodist Church, 800 S. Main St. Doors open with a resource fair at 8 a.m. Mayor Lydia Mihalik will read a proclamation kicking off the march at 9.
Juan Duarte of Team Recovery will speak at 10:30, sharing a compelling story about his own addiction recovery journey.
“He’s someone who has been through a lot” and is resilient and “passionate about recovery,” Schmiesing said.
Daniel Hutchison will speak at 11:15 on “Post-Traumatic Growth: The positive Outcome of Combat.”
Hutchison served six years as a combat medic in the U.S. Army. He served in Iraq during the deadly troop surge of 2007 and has written multiple books on war and its psychological effects. He will focus on “post-traumatic growth,” and how positive transformation can occur through trauma.
Often, people talk about how the period following a trauma is “doom and gloom,” Schmiesing said. And sometimes it is, but there can also be a period of growth and self-improvement. She likened it to a forest fire that releases seeds. It takes a while, but eventually, those seeds sprout. “We’re building something new out of those ashes,” she said.
The Ride for Recovery will be held the afternoon of Sept. 15, with registration from 10 a.m. to noon at Winebrenner Theological Seminary, 950 S. Main St. Registration the day of the ride is $20 per individual or $30 per couple, and preregistration, available at Focus and online, is $15 per individual and $25 per couple.
The ride will feature five stops, and a total trip of about 100 miles.
“This is something I’m really, really excited about,” said Schmiesing, who herself rides motorcycles with her husband.
Focus is partnering with the Fire and Iron Motorcycle Club stations 147 and 84, which are out of Cincinnati and Williams County. It’s a club of motorcyclists who are firefighters, EMTs and other first responders. Schmiesing said Focus has been wanting to further bring first responders into the recovery community.
The five stops are Ben Breece Harley-Davidson in Ottawa, Good Shepherd United Methodist Church in Benton Ridge, Tailgaters Creamery in Arlington, Thiel’s Wheels Harley-Davidson in Upper Sandusky and JB Twisters Ice Cream and Things in Fostoria. The event will end with a rally at Winebrenner.
Riders can get a card punched at each stop, then will draw the equivalent of a five-card poker hand. Area businesses have donated prizes.
The last bike will be in at 5 p.m., and the top three five-card hands will be announced at 5:30.
Movies, kites and a vigil
Focus will also hold weekly movie screenings as part of Recovery Month, at 5:30 p.m. Wednesdays beginning Sept. 12.
The first film will be “Generation Found,” a story about “one community coming together to ignite a youth recovery revolution,” according to a Focus flyer. On Sept. 19, Focus will show “Heroin(e),” an Oscar-nominated film following three women battling the opioid epidemic. And on Sept. 26, “Beyond Silence,” which follows people with mental health issues “as they challenge the discrimination that they face,” Schmiesing said, will be shown.
“Let Your Recovery Take Flight” will be held from 4-7 p.m. Sept. 27. Participants will create art symbolizing their recovery, and will put it on paper and make it into a kite.
“It will be a flyable kite. … You’re going to let this baby fly,” Schmiesing said.
This event is in partnership with the Statewide Advocacy Network, Sandusky Artisans Recovery Community Center, and the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. Registration is required by calling Focus at 419-423-5071.
National Alliance on Mental Illness of Hancock County will hold a suicide vigil from 6-9 p.m. Sept. 16 at Dorney Plaza.
Between now and Recovery Month 2019, Schmiesing’s goal is that we as a community “don’t get burned out.” She said this is why it’s so important to celebrate recovery. Too often, we are “inundated (with) the story of the struggle … we see that or we hear about it, or we live it every single day. … That can get exhausting.”
She said Recovery Month is about celebrating that recovery can happen, and it does, every single day. No matter who and where you are, “There is always hope,” she said.
And she said she hopes the events will remind people “Nobody is alone … You don’t have to do this recovery thing alone.”
Arthurs: 419-427-8494 Send an E-mail to Sara Arthurs