A few dozen residents and their children worked to shine a little brighter light on substance abuse Saturday at Homer’s first Light the Night march.
Hosted by The Bearded Sister, Mobilizing for Action through Planning and Partnerships of the Southern Kenai Peninsula, and the Southern Kenai Peninsula Opioid Task Force (which is a group within MAPP), the event involved a gathering at WKFL Park followed by a march through town.
“We meet together once a month and we’ve become friends throughout that anyway,” said Kerri-Ann Baker, of The Bearded Sister, a nonprofit dedicated to addiction recovery efforts. “We knew that we wanted to really do a bunch of stuff for Recovery Month, because it’s really easy. Nobody’s against recovery.”
Other communities, like the Mat-Su have held Light the Night events, but they are usually held later in the season, Baker said. The Homer groups chose to hold the march while it was still September, National Recovery Month. The choice was also a personal one for Baker.
Baker’s brother, for whom The Bearded Sister was named, died from addiction almost two years ago. Sept. 29, the day of the march, was his birthday. “The Bearded Sister” was his family nickname.
“He would have been 27 today,” Baker said.
Stephanie Sillwell, facilitator of the Opioid Task Force, said the event is meant to celebrate recovery and encourage people to share their stories. She said there’s a large local population living in recovery today.
Hannah Gustafson, of MAPP, said the event was an opportunity to focus on some positive things, especially when the focus is usually on the negative.
“In all of our community health needs assessments, substance abuse has been a top concern of our community members,” she said.
As the movement to tackle substance abuse grows, Gustafson said she’d like “to really have Homer be a place that welcomes people in recovery and supports people in recovery, and has the services needed for recovery.”
Baker said another aspect of the event is to tackle the stigma that exists against people who are addicted or recovering.
“There’s a lot of ugliness, and so what we wanted to talk about was that hope is out there,” she said. “… I would say half this group is in recovery, and the other half of us love someone that’s (affected by addiction).”
The SKP Opioid Task Force meets every fourth Wednesday at South Peninsula Hospital. Anyone is welcome to join. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.