Participants in a Light the Night march listen to Kerri-Ann Baker of The Bearded Sister give a short speech before leading people on the walk Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018 from WKFL Park in Homer, Alaska. This is the first time a Light the Night march has been held in Homer, with the purpose being to remember those lost to addiction and those living in recovery. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)

Participants in a Light the Night march listen to Kerri-Ann Baker of The Bearded Sister give a short speech before leading people on the walk Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018 from WKFL Park in Homer, Alaska. This is the first time a Light the Night march has been held in Homer, with the purpose being to remember those lost to addiction and those living in recovery. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)

Light the Night marchers bring addiction and recovery into the light

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 skpopioidtaskforce@gmail.com for more information.

Reach Megan Pacer at mpacer@homernews.com.

Two kits of the drug Naloxone, commonly called Narcan, rest on a picnic table before a Light the Night march Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018 at WKFL Park in Homer, Alaska. The kits are used to reverse the immediate effects of an overdose and can buy patients extra time to get to a hospital to be treated. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)

Two kits of the drug Naloxone, commonly called Narcan, rest on a picnic table before a Light the Night march Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018 at WKFL Park in Homer, Alaska. The kits are used to reverse the immediate effects of an overdose and can buy patients extra time to get to a hospital to be treated. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)

Signs with positive messages about overcoming addiction stigma and celebrating recovery rest on a picnic table before Homer’s first Light the Night march Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018 at WKFL Park in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)

Signs with positive messages about overcoming addiction stigma and celebrating recovery rest on a picnic table before Homer’s first Light the Night march Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018 at WKFL Park in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)

Participants in a Light the Night march head out on their walk from WKFL Park on Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018 in Homer, Alaska to honor those lost to addiction and those living in recovery. (photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)

Participants in a Light the Night march head out on their walk from WKFL Park on Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018 in Homer, Alaska to honor those lost to addiction and those living in recovery. (photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)

Light the Night marchers bring addiction and recovery into the light

Participants in a Light the Night march head out on their walk from WKFL Park on Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018 in Homer, Alaska to honor those lost to addiction and those living in recovery. (photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)

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