Nearly 1,270 people in New Jersey lost their lives this year so far to drug overdoses, according to state data.
Reports on drug overdoses have become so detailed and immediate that state officials are better able to grasp the scope of the addiction epidemic.
What is lacking, however, are reports and data that show how many people are in recovery from addiction. South Jersey advocates intend to show communities what that looks like at Stop the Heroin’s annual Recovery Celebration in Atlantic City June 16.
“This is a recovery celebration where people can celebrate themselves, friends and family members who are succeeding in recovery,” said Bill Schmincke, co-founder of Stop the Heroin.
The second annual walk will also honor those who have lost their battles with substance-use disorders. Families and friends will walk the 1.4-mile distance by holding and wearing signs, banners, posters and T-shirts with the names and faces of those who died.
“When people who make these teams in memory of lost loved ones and friends, it’s so heartbreaking, but we’re so thankful that they support this organization that helps people continue in their recovery,” Schmincke said. “There are people like us, who have our son and now honor his memory.”
Schmincke and his wife Tammy, of Mays Landing, created the nonprofit organization shortly after losing their son Steven to a heroin overdose in March 2016. The organization uses any raised money to help people into sober living facilities after they complete detox.
Organizers expect that this year’s event on the Atlantic City Boardwalk will draw up to 1,000 people and double the number of fundraising teams from last year. Schmincke said they have already raised close to $20,000 and hope to surpass last year’s $24,000 mark.
Registration for the 5k and 10k runs opens at 6:30 a.m. at Kennedy Plaza; the races start at 8 a.m. The courses run through Ventnor and Atlantic City. Top finishers will receive medals and free T-shirts.
The walk activities will begin at 10 a.m. with opening remarks from the Schminckes. Other guest speakers include Assemblymen Vince Mazzeo and John Armato, Vanessa Vitolo, recovery advocate and outreach coordinator at Victory Bay Recovery Center, professional skateboarder Brandon Novak and former N.F.L. Denver Bronco Vance Johnson.
The walk will begin at noon followed by free lunch provided by Chico n Sons Pizza and Chick fil A. Soda, juice boxes and snacks will be on sale for $1.
Afternoon speakers include Atlantic County Prosecutor Damon G. Tyner, Atlantic County Sheriff Eric Scheffler and Steven Kavalkovich, host of the Rescue the Rescuer radio program.
Participants can try to win raffle prizes throughout the day, which include signed Philadelphia Eagles memorabilia, gift baskets, Lakewood Blueclaws baseball tickets and gift cards to Applebees, Crab Trap, Elite Climbing and more.