By EILEEN MCCLORY
Ashley O’Brien celebrated her two-year anniversary of being drug-free on Friday.
On Saturday, she marched with hundreds of other Hancock County residents in the March For Recovery, an event organized by the Focus on Friends group to raise awareness in Hancock County about drug addiction and the ways people can overcome it.
The event was held at St. Mark’s United Methodist Church.
Ellyn Schmiesing, the interim executive director of Focus on Friends, a local nonprofit focused on addiction services, said the event was a time to celebrate recovery, raise awareness and provide hope to those who are currently struggling with addiction.
Todd Crandell, owner of a Toledo-based nonprofit focused on addiction treatment, Running for Recovery, was the keynote speaker. Crandell is a recovered addict who began running Ironmans in 1999, channeling his focus away from drugs.
“I’m not saying you have to go run an Ironman,” he said. “I’m saying you need to find your purpose and go get it.”
This year’s march focused on strengthening families and communities around addicts.
Chris Edwards of the Hancock County National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) talked about her family’s experiences. Despite practicing her speech and promising herself she wouldn’t tear up, she cried as she told the audience her experiences with her daughter’s addiction, and encouraged those in the crowd to ask family members to be part of the recovery process.
Judge Reginald Routson of Hancock County Common Pleas Court said he and others in the court want to help addicts to do whatever it takes to get off drugs.
“Whatever it takes for you to succeed, do it. We won’t judge,” Routson told the crowd.
Common Pleas Judge Jonathan Starn said the event was a good opportunity for the court to show its support for those fighting addiction.
“The community as a whole is dealing with the opiate epidemic,” he said. “Court staff is a component. We’re often some of the first ones (addicts) get exposed to. It’s an opportunity we have to show them resources they can benefit from.”