Race against addiction

Greenfield firefighters organize 5k run to raise money for RECOVER Project

Greenfield Firefighter Adam Mitchell is organizing a 5k. Recorder/Paul Franz

Greenfield Firefighter Adam Mitchell is organizing a 5k. Recorder/Paul Franz

GREENFIELD — On the front lines of the heroin crisis, Greenfield firefighters are looking for a way to help people before someone calls 911 because of an overdose.

“It’s become an epidemic, and we as first responders, myself I work for Baystate Health Ambulance as well, have gone to the same people a couple times — and once or twice we’ve gone to the same person multiple times for multiple overdoses, and the last time we go it’s been fatal, they’ve been gone for a while,” said firefighter Adam Mitchell.

“Getting into the fire service all you want to do is help,” Mitchell said. “That’s why as a union we want to do something before the fact instead of just after it.”

Mitchell and others from the Local 2548 Firefighters’ Union started looking for a way to help before the fact, and settled on a 5k footrace fundraiser and the Recover Project.

The Firebird 5k is scheduled for June 7, with registration $20 with a number of discounts.

The RECOVER Project is a peer-to-peer addiction recovery program, the first of its kind in the state, working in the heart of Greenfield for more than a decade.

The nonprofit brings together people in all stages of addiction and recovery in its office at the corner of Federal and Osgood streets on the theory that it is possible to overcome any addiction and that those already recovering are a valuable resource for one another and for those just recognizing a problem.

In the first year, race organizers are hoping to get a foot in the door with a fundraiser they expect to grow in the next year, and the next, to benefit the RECOVER Project or prevention efforts — Mitchell said they had looked first for an opioid-specific prevention effort in the schools.

“If we only raise $1,000, $1,500 this year and we save one life, or help turn one person’s life around — we help the RECOVER Project do that — I consider that a win,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell said they settled on the RECOVER Project after talking to members.

Justin McNary, RECOVER Project advocacy coordinator, said the Bureau of Substance Abuse Services pays the rent, salaries for the small staff, and keeps the lights on but there are a lot of extras the project would like to offer. The couple hundred dollars to renew a commercial driver’s license, for instance, could make the difference between a job and continued unemployment, McNary said. “For a lot of our members they just get jammed up and if somebody can give them a little bump once in a while, it can really change the course of what they’re doing,” McNarry said.

A fund some day for that kind of case-by-case discretionary use is the ideal, but right now it would be nice to have enough to cover a little food when someone comes in off the street and hasn’t eaten for a couple days, or bringing coffee to a man who lived under a bridge for the winter and amazingly, he said, managed to stay clean and sober through it all.

The race is scheduled for 10 a.m. June 7.

Registration is open online, with a link on the race Facebook page — Firebird 5k — or directly through the online race registration site RunReg.com at:


The course begins and ends in the area of Highland Pond, by the Highland Park/Temple Woods parking lot and tennis courts near the entrance to Peabody Lane. From there the race takes a flat route along James, Hope, Prospect and Russell streets. See the Firebird 5k Facebook page for a course map.

Five kilometers is 3.1 miles, the standard high school cross country race. It’s a course you can walk in under an hour, and if you can run it in less than half an hour you’re doing fine. The beauty of 5ks is that they aren’t that hard — long enough to be a worthwhile challenge for new runners, short enough they don’t take months of training, and common enough to provide a useful gauge for progress and fitness.

The race is almost eight weeks away, and Mitchell said the Internet is full of eight-week 5k beginners’ guides.

You can reach Chris Curtis at: ccurtis@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 257

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