GREENFIELD — Under a cloudless blue sky on an almost too-warm autumn morning, dozens gathered Saturday on the courthouse plaza for the third annual Ashley Burton Recovery Walk, dedicated this year to the memory of Cord Tucker.
Burton, Tucker and others taken by addiction were on the minds of friends and families who registered for the casual walk on the Pennsy Trail, donning the event’s signature light purple T-shirt.
“Purple is the color of recovery,” said Darlene Hatfield, Ashley’s mother and the event’s organizer.
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The walk, which drew some 200 people this year, is held not only to remember those lost but also to raise awareness and fund help for people still struggling daily with addiction.
“Ashley could get her hands on any drugs she wanted to in Hancock County,” Hatfield said, “but she couldn’t get help.”
There are resources available in the county, but organizers of the event say more are needed. Registration fees and money raised by the walk will benefit The Landing Place — which holds programs in downtown Greenfield for teens and young adults — and the Talitha Koum Recovery House for women, under construction at 527 E. Main St.
Several sponsors and organizations set up booths around the plaza, inviting visitors to learn more about their missions to make Hancock County a drug-free place to live.
“We’re hoping that by raising awareness, it would lift the stigma,” Hatfield said. “Drugs and addictions don’t discriminate — they don’t care how rich you are, how poor you are, or what color you are.”
That hope also was on the minds of the family of Cord Tucker, who died of a heroin overdose in February. Relatives attending included his mother and stepfather, Dana and David Brown; and siblings Lindsey and Clay Tucker, and Savanna and Connor Brown.
David Brown wants people to remember a person struggling with addiction is a person, first and foremost.
“That’s still someone’s child — that’s still someone’s son, someone’s brother, someone’s cousin, someone’s friend that is struggling,” David Brown said. “And we just want them to be remembered and loved, because our son was loved and he was a loving person, he was a caring person. The addiction that ended his life was not who he was, and it never will be.”
Before the walk, Greenfield Mayor Chuck Fewell read a proclamation of September as Recovery Month in the city.
“We do have some troubles, and we’re trying to fix them as quick as we can,” Fewell said, calling for more community support. “… It’s going to have to be everybody joining together and making this happen.”
Hancock County Circuit Court Judge Richard Culver also addressed the gathering.
He noted that sober living facilities are something “lacking in Hancock County, … lacking across the state. It’s hard to convince people that this is an appropriate way to spend money,” he said.
As the walkers set out, two sets of balloons were released into the sky. Twenty-six were pink for Ashley — “She was 26 (when she died), and pink was her favorite color,” Hatfield said — and a group of red balloons flew for Cord.
“If you have someone who is struggling today, don’t give up hope — because there’s always hope,” Talitha Koum House director Linda Ostewig said after everyone returned from the walk. “If they’re breathing, there’s hope.”