GREENFIELD — The goal has always been to make Hancock County a “recovery county,” Linda Ostewig said during the opening ceremony for the ninth Annual Recovery Walk on Saturday at downtown Greenfield.

“By God, we are a recovery county,” Ostewig said to the delight of the crowd, which cheered loudly.

Ostewig said without the support of the community and all the organizations who gathered to support the cause, officials championing the cause would never be able to make a huge difference in lives.

“We gather today because we walk in hope as we need our voices to stand together,” Ostewig said. “Indiana is just killing it when it comes to recovery.”

Hundreds gathered Saturday morning at Depot Street Park for the ninth annual Recovery Walk and to pay tribute to Makenna Grace Decker, who passed away from a drug overdose in 2022 after a year of being sober.

Ostewig is the Director of the Recovery Café of Hancock County and is also a Certified Peer Recovery Coach and the Director of The Landing Place, Discovery Cafe and the Talitha Koum Women’s Recovery House — all places designed to provide continuous help for people looking to get back on their feet following addiction issues.

“I was walking over to the park this morning and saw all the people and thought, ‘Can you imagine we just thought we’d have a recovery walk eight years ago and now, here we are,’” she said.

National drug overdose statistics show it’s people like Ostewig and others who are helping Hancock County and Indiana make a huge difference in people’s lives.

State statistics show drug related deaths continue to be at record highs. However, in Indiana, overdose deaths are on the decline. The national stats released in early September show a 13% decrease in drug-related overdose deaths in Indiana over the last year — the third largest decrease nationwide.

“It’s been 10 years since I got on my knees and prayed that Hancock County would become a ‘recovery county,’ so things have changed and we’re making a difference,” Ostewig said.

She said her many organizers are proud of hosting an event that brings drug abuse overdose to the forefront and provides help for people suffering through addiction and the families of those who have lost a loved one to drug abuse.

This year’s event recognized McKenna, who passed away Sept. 26, 2022 at the age of 39 after taking a drug laced with fentanyl. Her death came just a few days after McKenna had participated in last year’s Recovery Walk. Her family, including her mother, Janet Decker, spoke during the opening ceremony to share McKenna’s story.

“My mind has been swirling,” Janet said. “My mind has changed from feelings of resentment to forgiveness, and McKenna would surely have wanted that.”

Brandy Lewis, Irvington, is McKenna’s cousin and attended the event as her way of supporting those battling addiction.

“It’s important for our family to raise awareness for recovery and to help them stay in recovery,” Lewis said. “We don’t just want people to get sober. We want people to stay sober.”

The event hosted several addiction help vendors who attended to spread the word that true answers and help are out there for people looking to break the addiction cycle, something that pleased Hancock County Prosecutor Brent Eaton, who supports the event each year by taking part in the walk.

“For those people out there who exploit addiction, they’re working all the time time, 24/7 some 365 days a year. Here, these are people on the other side, and it’s really great to have all these people here who support the cause because we’ll never stop fighting it,” Eaton said. “The way to make progress is by doing things like this — working together.”

Heather Rodriguez, the director of the Indiana Recovery Network, also spoke to the crowd and noted how important it is to show up and show out for recovery.

“We are honored to sponsor this event and support folks and families in recovery,” Rodriquez said. “I have 16 years of recovery myself, and it took me a couple of years to find my way.”

Following the opening ceremony, walkers hit the nearby walking trail, went three miles and then returned to the park area to continue the celebration of life and hope.