Dozens weather adversity with a message for those facing addiction

Apr. 28—FARRELL — Heavy rain and thunder early Saturday morning didn't stop about 80 people from participating in the Operation Lighthouse Memory Walk Against Addiction.

Beginning and ending at Valley Baptist Church in Farrell, the roughly one-mile walk looped through a nearby Farrell neighborhood.

Tim Harrison, a minister at Valley Baptist Church and an event organizer, said this was the Memory Walk's third year, and that the weather always cleared up before the walk begins.

"We waited for a little bit at the church, but people were still coming in. Nobody wanted to go home, they wanted to do this," Harrison said.

The event was presented by Operation Lighthouse, a collaborative effort of the Mercer County Behavioral Health Commission, Minority Health Center and Shenango Valley faith-based organizations.

Among the walkers was Mike McGhee of Warren, Ohio, who said this was the first time he participated in the walk.

McGhee learned of the event through his work with Operation Lighthouse's HEAT program — HEAT meaning habilitation, empowerment, accountability and therapy — a nine-month course that helps rehabilitate young men.

As a volunteer with HEAT, McGhee said he has seen firsthand people struggling with addiction, but also the potential for people to change their lives for the better.

"We had one man come into the program with legal problems, drug problems," McGhee said. "And now he's been clean for more than a year."

McGhee said it was important for people to understand that addiction is a national problem and those who come forward seeking helping should not be stigmatized.

After the Memory Walk concluded, Harrison spoke with the participants in the hurch's parking lot.

Harrison encouraged those present to return for the next Rally in the Valley, which is planned for 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 25 at the Quinby Street Resource Center, 335 Quinby St., Sharon.

The event, which will feature live testimonies, music, vendors and resources aims to "connect people battling addictions and their family members and loved ones to treatment support and equipping them to maintain lifelong support," according to the flyer.

Harrison said he hoped to have at least 70 vendors at the event. He added that he hoped to reach the thousands of residents living in Mercer County's housing projects.

"We want to get that message to not just those in recovery, but the people that are still struggling out there," Harrison said.

McGhee said he hoped that, through outreach and activities such as the Memory Walk and Rally in the Valley, more people struggling with addiction would feel comfortable seeking help.

"These people who are addicted aren't bad people, they're just sick," McGhee said.

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