SEASIDE HEIGHTS – It was a day of hope and support for those affected by addiction during the 6th Annual Celebration of Hope held at the borough’s boardwalk.
Under the blue sky, mild temperature and sunshine, a sea of yellow shirted participants lined up on the Hiering Avenue boardwalk for the event, sponsored by Hope Sheds Light on Sept. 7.
Hope Sheds Light was started after the Rosetto family lost their son Marc in 2012 to a hard-fought battle against substance abuse and heroin experimentation.
Feeling isolated and unable to find the help they needed during Marc’s struggles, they formed the non-profit group to provide direction, resources and hope for recovery and to also share personal experiences to assist with long-term recovery.
Marc’s father, Ron Rosetto, joined Arvo Prima, Stephen Willis and Pamela Capaci in forming the group.
Heather Price, volunteer coordinator for the organization said “we had about 1,500 people signed up for pre-registration and we expect around 2,500 today. We have 45 exhibitors, speakers and special guests.” The walkers took to the boardwalk for a two-mile trek. Registration was $10 and included the bright yellow T-shirt which featured the word ‘hope.’
Organization Chief Executive Officer Pamela Capaci said “those impacted by addiction typically don’t know where to turn to for help. Our walk offers them community support.”
She added that through events like this, the community comes together to learn about addiction and celebrate recovery and provide hope to those affected.
Freeholder Virginia Haines thanked those who came out to the event. She was joined by Freeholder Gary Quinn who also took part in the walk. Haines said that the organization has helped aid those affected by “this horrible opioid epidemic. Thanks to this organization the victims know they are loved and there is progress here for them.”
“Thanks to organizations like this, the Ocean County Health Department, the Ocean County Freeholders and our local police departments we are making progress,” Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley Billhimer said regarding the opioid crisis’s impact in Ocean County.
It was Price’s own story however that many in the crowd found the most inspiring.
“I grew up using as a teen. I am in long term recovery and I know how important it is to share my own message of hope. Recovery is real and I’m living proof,” Price said.
“My dad died at 45 years old due to his alcoholism. I was 23 at the time and a new mom. I had two young children and I was drinking and taking pills…My husband was going to take my boys so I started a nine-month program. I went back to California and picked up my old habits.”
“My aunt killed herself and was using alcohol. I stopped for a while during my third pregnancy but I went back to it,” Price said.
Price said it took a car accident involving her young daughter to get her back into treatment. “I was going to lose my daughter to the state. I knew I had to do something. It took the possibility of losing my daughter to make a change. I had reached bottom,” Price said.
She added that now she is not using and two of her three children live with her in Bayville and that “I am now in a loving relationship and am proud to be a volunteer coordinator.”
Rob Murtagh, Brick, spoke about being the father of two children with addiction problems. “I’ve lived with this for 30 years.”
Murtagh said he lost one son to addiction and shared that “if how you feel is based on how someone else is going, I know how you are feeling. The hardest thing to do is to let go. We will be there but we won’t tell you what to do. You have to make your own choices.
“The toughest thing is watch people suffer because of their addiction. The most wonderful feeling is watching their recovery,” Murtagh said.
Willis said the organization holds regular meetings for families impacted by addiction and since May 2016 those meetings have involved more than 4,500 people.
The event included a “Tree of Hope” which served to remember those lost to addiction.
The group will soon open a new community recovery center in Toms River that will offer “peer-based recovery services, family support groups, social activities, yoga, tai chi, resume writing and help with legal issues,” Willis said.
To learn more about Hope Sheds Light visit HOPEShedslight.org.