Third annual Walk Against Heroin brings community together

People crowd into the City Park horseshoe shelter to hear guest speakers at the third annual Walk Against Heroin tell their stories. (Photo by Madeline Murphy)

PARKERSBURG — The third annual Walk Against Heroin was all about bringing the local community together to remember the battles both won and lost against opioid addiction.

Rich Walters,VOCA Treatment Center’s national outreach director and organizer of Saturday’s walk at City Park, said it was amazing how the event has grown each year.

The event DJ, Joe Ellison, said after hearing about the event, he couldn’t help but volunteer his services.

“I lost my little brother to heroin two years ago,” said Ellison.

“We have families who have suffered because of a family member who was strung out, we have a lot of good speakers, we have those who went through the struggle and came out at the other end.” Walters said.

Christine Lyons, from left, Sarah Stanley, Crystal Bradshaw and Gabrielle Bradshaw sign the names of their loved ones lost to heroin on the 2018 Walk Against Heroin banner. (Photo by Madeline Murphy)

“I am the daughter, sister, cousin and niece of a drug addict,” said Miranda Murphy. “My family lost my uncle and cousin, my dad is incarcerated for drugs, but my sister is clean,” she said.

“Outreach is beautiful and it really is saving lives,” said Murphy.

The horseshoe shelter at City Park was filled with people sharing their own stories of recovery or loss with one another.

“We can never forget the ones we’ve lost,” said Walters.

“Five years ago today I was at my dad’s funeral,” said Starrlene Smith, a speaker at the event. “I was 13 at the time,” she said.

Members of Clarksburg Mission Sober Living, from left, Joe Evans, Brooklyn Little, Amanda Martin, Morgan Grubb, Victoria Nash and Caitlin Haun came out to show their support Saturday. (Photo by Madeline Murphy)

“I had to lose a parent in order to gain one and I am so thankful for my mother, who went through recovery and has filled my life with all the little things I never had before,” Smith said.

Recovery West Virginia, HighOnHope Ministries and Westbrook Health Services were handing out information Saturday about the long-term treatment programs for those who suffer with substance abuse.

“HighOnHope Ministries is an outreach program,” said founder Tim Craft.

“We help those who are addicted find long term treatment, and provide an overcoming addiction class every Thursday at 6 p.m. at 517 Market St.,” he said.

According to Craft, 53 people were placed into long-term treatments last year.

Gracie Farley, 5, of Parkersburg, was at Saturday’s Walk Against Heroin for her third year in a row with her family, walking for her uncle who passed away from an overdose. (Photo by Madeline Murphy)

“I was addicted for 12 years,” said Craft

“During that time I lost my sister and aunt, I had really lost myself too. I had a friend who believed I was worth saving, and if it wasn’t for him, I would not be here today,” he said

“Knowing there was someone fighting for me and believing that even strung out I was worth it, changed me,” Craft said.

“People who struggle with drugs need to know that there is a life without drugs and that it is amazing,” Walters said.

Helping to raise proceeds was Sno Biz, with 25 percent of all sales going to help raise community awareness about the drug crisis.

“My son TC Hayes died on Jan. 23, 2017,” said Sandy Hayes, one of the speakers at the event.

“As much as I want my son back, I would only want him back healthy because I don’t want to see him struggle anymore,” she said.

Wood County Sheriff Steve Stephens said anytime people can come out as a community and help educate others on addiction is a great cause.

People carried photos of loved ones as they walked a lap around City Park.

After the lap was over, Kolichee, a musician, performed his rap song “Drug Addiction,” a personal story of his life and his path to recovery. Anyone needing or knowing someone who needs help with treatment due to a drug addiction or alcoholism can call 855-572-8503, he said.