GREENFIELD — There was something about Ashley Burton that always made her mother worry.
Burton was a lively girl, Darlene Hatfield said, a popular cheerleader while in high school who made good grades and had a large group of friends surrounding her. But that never seemed like enough for Burton, who always told her mother she wanted to feel different. When Burton was 18, a boyfriend introduced her to cocaine, and she used it to help mask the inadequacies she felt; the drug took her life in March 2014.
Recovery is a battle, and no one knows that better than the family who witnesses an addict struggle with sobriety, Hatfield said. To raise awareness and unite those families, Hatfield and a group of county groups aimed at curbing substance abuse are teaming up to bring those issues to the forefront at the inaugural Hancock County Recovery Walk.
The event, slated for Sept. 26, is hosted by representatives from Hancock County Probation and The Landing, a counseling center for teens. Money raised through registration fees will benefit The Landing and the Talitha Koum Recovery House for Women, which is being built in Greenfield.
Those who gather for the walk will do so in Burton’s memory because her story represents a battle many Hancock County residents fight, organizers said. They also will mark National Recovery Month, which is held each September in an effort to increase awareness and understanding of mental illness and substance use issues, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
Organizers say they hope the walk will shed light on drug issues in Hancock County while drawing attention to local recovery programs. Hatfield said she hopes the gathering also will kick-start additional efforts.
“When Ashley was struggling, there was no place for her to go here,” Hatfield said. “She could get drugs in Hancock County, but she couldn’t get help in Hancock County. I hope this will bring people together … because people need a place to turn to for help.”
The recovery walk will begin in the Hancock County Courthouse Plaza and serve not only as a walk but a community fair with information for participants, said Amy Ikerd, a crime prevention specialist for the probation department. Nearly two dozen groups specializing in addiction and recovery will have informational resources available starting at 9 a.m. The walk through town and down the Pennsy Trail will begin at 10 a.m.
Participants can sign up by contacting Ikerd at firstname.lastname@example.org, by stopping by the Hancock County Probation Department at the county courthouse or by visiting the event’s website, HancockCounty RecoveryWalk.eventzilla.net.
The cost to register is $25 per person or $20 per person for a group of four or more, Ikerd said.
Organizers hope to draw crowds of participants from all sides of addiction; whether it’s a parent looking to help a child, a former addict looking to celebrate sobriety or a family searching for support after the loss of a loved one, all are welcome, said Linda Ostewig, director of The Landing.
Ostewig hopes the event will encourage residents to “walk a mile” in an addict’s shoes. Those who attend will hear messages aimed at inspiring the community to recognize the troubles addicts face each day.
“Even if addiction hasn’t touched you, you can’t just turn your back on what it’s doing to families, to jobs to schools,” she said. “It’s a huge community thing.”
“When Ashley was struggling, there was no place for her to go here. She could get drugs in Hancock County, but she couldn’t get help in Hancock County. I hope this will bring people together … because people need a place to turn to for help.”
Darlene Hatfield, on the mission of the Hancock County Recovery Walk
What: Hancock County Walk for Recovery
When: Sept. 26. Resource tables open at 9 a.m., walk starts at 10 a.m.
Where: Hancock County Courthouse Plaza
How much: $25 per person or $20 per person for a group of four or more
To register: By emailing email@example.com, stopping by the Hancock County Probation Department at the county courthouse or visiting HancockCountyRecoveryWalk.eventzilla.net