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Philly Hosts Huge Walk For Recovery

Last year, 15,000 people made it the biggest addiction recovery walk ever. Organizers tell The Fix they hope for even more on Saturday.

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Recovery Walks! spreads the word. Photo via

By Chrisanne Grise

09/20/12

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This Saturday (September 22) in Philadelphia, thousands will join Recovery Walks! 2012 to celebrate sobriety in a big way. Hosted by the non-prof PRO-ACT as part of Recovery Month, the annual walk covers 1.75 miles through the historic city, raising funds as well as awareness. “We do this so that people understand that recovery is possible, and that there is hope out there for individuals and families that are still struggling with this illness,” Beverly Haberle, executive director of the Council of Southeast Pennsylvania, which hosts PRO-ACT, tells The Fix. Last year, 15,000 participants made it the largest walk ever assembled in support of addiction recovery. Organizers hope to beat that figure this weekend. Plenty of festivities are also planned: politicians and celebrities like Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and YouTube sensation Ted “Golden Voice” Williams will make appearances, and there will also be a “Recovery Idol” singing contest. But for Haberle, one real highlight is the Honor Guard—participants who have 10 or more years in recovery—leading the walk. “There’s some pride attached to it," she explains, "but also it’s a demonstration to other people that long-term recovery is possible.” 

When Recovery Walks! began 11 years ago, expectations were very different. “Our first walk, we had 100 people and we were feeling great about it,” says Haberle. “The first few years, people didn’t know what to expect, having a bunch of ‘addicts’ around. We said ‘in recovery’ but they didn’t hear it quite that way, so we were sort-of shuttered off to places that were less conspicuous.” But the organizers and volunteers stayed committed, and the recovery movement in general began making great strides to change misconceptions: “Not only the number of people, but the breadth of the community that is supporting recovery has grown over the years.” And with the community growing more supportive, the walk has been granted more prominent routes through Philadelphia. “If you think about this movement, when would people 11 years ago have been cheering a bunch of people in recovery?” asks Haberle. “All of those are signs of more and more understanding and support for recovery and what recovery means, and that’s what’s exciting.”

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