Road (race) to recovery
“Firebird 5k” exceeds organizers’ expectations
Over 150 people turned out for the first ever Firebird 5K charity run in Greenfield on Saturday. Proceeds from the race will be donated to the local RECOVER project.
Recorder/Micky Bedell Purchase photo reprints »
Female Firebird 5K winner Robin McKeon, of Northfield.
Recorder/Micky Bedell Purchase photo reprints »
GREENFIELD — It’s been said that one can’t run away from his problems.
You can, however, run toward a solution, and about 150 did just that in the first Firebird 5k race to fight addiction.
“The amount of support we saw today blows my mind,” said co-organizer Devon de Korver of the RECOVER Project.
The race raised over $5,000, which will go to benefit the RECOVER Project, a Greenfield nonprofit where those in recovery help each other achieve long-term sobriety. Just how that money will be used will be decided by the organization’s board.
“To me, the money we raised is secondary,” said co-organizer Adam Mitchell, a Greenfield firefighter. “It’s really about getting people to stand together against addiction.”
The two organizers said they would have been happy if 30 people signed up for their first-ever race. They never thought they’d end up with nearly 150 runners.
The runners, who ran the gamut between fit and fat and young and old, ran for a variety of reasons. Some, like de Korver, were in recovery themselves, and others had been affected by their friends’ and family members’ struggles with addiction.
“I had a family member who was deep into drugs, and he spent some time in jail because of it,” said Robin McKeon, of Northfield, who took first place in the women’s category. “He’s on to much greater things, but it took a tremendous effort.”
Mitchell said he’s also had a family member fall victim to addiction before turning his life around. As a full-time firefighter, Mitchell said he’s come face-to-face with overdosing addicts too many times. That was one of the things that led him to organize the race.
For addicts, that effort doesn’t end once they’ve gotten through the pain of withdrawal. It’s an ongoing struggle, one they will fight for the rest of their lives. That’s where the Recover Project comes in.
“The RECOVER Project is there to give people long-term help,” said Dr. Ruth Potee, of Northfield. Potee, a primary care physician, regularly treats addicts, and has been an outspoken advocate for the resources they need.
Too often, she said, addicts will get clean through jail or detox, but have trouble staying sober in the long run.
The RECOVER Project helps by building a community of people in recovery. It also gives them a chance to be part of something positive. Members come up with ideas and see them through to fruition, planning things like the annual “sober jam” concert, as well as specialized support groups.
“We try to encourage people to be involved, and come up with ideas,” said Tim Ranney-Blake. “We find that, when you talk to those in recovery, the biggest issue is ‘how do I construct my life now?’”
A U.S. Air Force veteran and recovering addict, Ranney-Blake helped organize a veterans’ support group at the Project. It’s a safe place for former service members to speak candidly about their experiences and recovery, with others who have been there. That peer-to-peer support is a core value of the Recover Project.
Several local businesses, from healthcare facilities to the local carpenters’ union, recognized the RECOVER Project’s value, and readily stepped up to donate when they were asked to support the race.
Organizers were surprised by where some of the race’s support came from.
A group of pre-release inmates from the Franklin County Jail’s Kimball House program raised $160 from behind the jail’s barbed-wire fences. On Saturday, however, they left the jail — with an escort — and ran in the race alongside everyone else.
“We had a few weeks to train, and we ran on the jail property,” said inmate and Team Hurrican captain Larry Harnois.
He and his teammates did several of their own 5ks on the inside, each consisting of seven laps around the jail’s courtyard. All that training couldn’t help them keep up with their corrections officer, though. Lt. Jason Collins led the pack Saturday, coming in first place.
“I’d like to take the guys out again and do more races in the community,” he said. “The pre-release program is all about getting the guys into the community, to get back into normal life.”
Mitchell and de Korver said they’d like the Firebird 5k to become an annual event. They were surprised to see how well things went, with only a couple minor hiccups, like running out of numbered bibs for the racers to wear.
In time, Mitchell said he’d like to see the Firebird turn into its own entity, holding an annual race, as well as fundraisers like pancake breakfasts, raising money to help those in recovery.
Like the legendary phoenix, he hopes the Firebird can help people rise from the ashes of addiction.