Shatterproof 5K Brings Families Together To Rise Against Addiction

By The Fix staff 05/09/18

“Together, we can take action and change the way we talk about addiction. A small group of people in Kansas City proved that.”

Crowd with people hugging at 5K run.
“During the 5K, I met other families just like mine...I no longer felt alone."

Each day, 174 Americans die from drug overdoses. And although the experience of losing a loved one to addiction is no longer rare, it is uniquely tragic for each family that endures it.

“I know the pain caused by addiction. I lost my son Brian to this debilitating disease. I made a promise to him, to spare others of this tragedy,” says Gary Mendell, CEO and founder of Shatterproof, a national nonprofit that was started in 2013 to help end the devastation addiction causes families.

Although Shatterproof was founded from tragedy, its message is one of hope. In the five years since it launched, the organization has advocated for policy changes on the state and federal level, spread awareness about treatment options and challenged the stigma around addiction.

Last year, Shatterproof organized the first-ever Rise Up Against Addiction 5K Walk/Run Event — held in five cities across the country. In addition to celebrating the lives of people in recovery and honoring those who died from addition, the Shatterproof 5K Walk/Run events raised $1.7 million to help Shatterproof support its mission. This year, the 5K Walk/Runs will take place in 11 cities, spreading the impact and helping more people find hope.

One of those people is Kyle Mead. Mead has been sober for 20 years and has worked in the treatment industry for 18 years, but he wanted a way to engage more actively with the recovery community.

“I didn't just want to be connected to recovery; I wanted a way to take action,” Mead says. He started researching advocacy opportunities and found that the Rise Up Against Addiction 5k would be coming to Kansas City, where he lives. He registered and formed a team, which he named Hope Lives Here.

Mead and his teammate had such a positive experience in Kansas City that they decided to send a Hope Lives Here team to each of the Rise Up Against Addiction 5K Walk/Run events, spreading their message that a fulfilled life in recovery is possible.

“We talked about stigma and what it meant to each of us. We told other people what we were doing and the reactions and stories we heard from others reinforced how important our cause was—not only for those of us in recovery but for many others impacted by this disease,” says Mead. “Together, we can take action and change the way we talk about addiction. A small group of people in Kansas City proved that.”

Mead and his teammates aren’t alone. At each event, Shatterproof ambassadors share their own stories of hope: how addiction changed their lives and those of their families, and how they have emerged stronger.

“There was a time in my life when I was hopeless and didn’t think it was possible for someone like me to not use drugs or alcohol,” Laurisa Barthen said at the Shatterproof Atlanta 5K Walk/Run event. “In my recovery, my life today is better than I ever could have possibly imagined. And that’s why I speak out.”

Even those who have lost family members to addiction find hope at the events by connecting with others who share their experiences.

“During the 5K, I met other families just like mine. That was the best part of the day. I no longer felt alone,” says Lindsey Howlett, who lost her mother to opioids. “I realized that we’re all in this together. It was amazing to feel all the support from family, friends, and even strangers. It was a great experience because everyone pulled together and it really helped with my grieving process.”

This year, the Shatterproof Rise Up Against Addiction 5K Walk/Run will take place in Dallas, Texas; Cleveland, Ohio; Kansas City, Missouri; Los Angeles; Denver, Colorado; Boston, Massachusetts; Chicago; New York; National Capital Area; Atlanta, Georgia; and in Orange County, California. Organizers hope that more people than ever will come together to fight stigma, raise awareness and find hope and healing.

“It was beautifully done and very cathartic for my husband and me, as parents who lost a son to this deadly disease,” says Adrianne Dollard, who participated in the New York 5K Walk/Run last year. “There was a feeling of community, acceptance, and understanding.”

Shatterproof is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to ending addiction. The Rise Up Against Addiction 5K Walk/Run is the organization’s largest fundraiser, taking place in 11 cities this year. Register here. Find more information on Facebook or Twitter.

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