Shedding light on addiction in Ocean County
It's an oft-repeated mantra, but addiction affects more than just the users it entraps. Addicts' families can also be torn apart. Helping them understand the problem is the goal of a charity walk this coming Saturday in Seaside Heights, and the mission of the organization behind the event.
HOPE Sheds Light, which launched in the Toms River area in 2012, is sponsoring its second annual Celebration of Hope Walk on Oct. 3. The "HOPE" in the nonprofit's name stands for Heroin Opiate Prescription Drug Education.
"Our goal really is to be a gateway to all the different agencies and providers that do provide support and therapy," said Steve Willis, one of the organization's three co-founders -- all of them personally impacted by addiction within their families.
Willis said he and the other founders, Ron Rosetto and Arvo Prima, initially wanted to make it easier for families to access help that they had struggled to find themselves.
"We just didn't know who to turn to. We didn't know what resources were out there," Willis said, adding that his group works 24/7 to connect those affected by addiction to the information they need. "We answer the phone. We'll meet with people. We'll assess their needs, whether it's straight substance abuse treatment, many times there's mental health concerns, and we want to try to help them move into treatment."
Hundreds of people are expected to turn out for Saturday's walk. They'll come from all over New Jersey, not just the areas of Ocean and Monmouth counties that have been especially hard-hit by heroin and prescription drug abuse over the last few years. Willis said that reflects the objective that he, Rosetto and Prima set three years ago.
"It's really a statewide reach, because these programs that are out there -- although they may be hard to get into -- and therapists that are out there, you know, they're all over New Jersey," he said, "and this problem is all over New Jersey."
Registration for the walk begins at 8 a.m. Saturday, on the beach at Hiering Avenue in Seaside Heights. There is a $10 suggested donation, though participation is free.
To learn more about Saturday's event and the mission of HOPE Sheds Light, visit hopeshedslight.org.
Patrick Lavery is New Jersey 101.5's evening news anchor. Follow him on Twitter @plavery1015, email email@example.com, and listen for his live reports Monday through Thursday nights between 6:30 and 11 p.m.