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Everybody Won at Citizens Assist Run/Walk
Written by Ernie Quatrani, Correspondent
2019-11-13

Compassionate community comes together through Project Live

 

            No one ran or walked alone at the first Project Live Citizens Assist Race/Walk

Participants in the first Project Live Citizens Assist
Race/Walk on Sunday run down the road as they
head for the cart paths of the Macoby Run Golf
Course
where most of the event took place.

on Sunday. Some participated with friends or family, and all were encouraged along the way by community members who applauded their efforts.

            And nobody was judging people for going too slowly or walking instead of running or needing to stop and rest.

            Which is exactly the point that Project Live tries to drive home: no one should be left alone in the struggle against substance abuse disorder, whether it is the user or the family or the friends. The battle to overcome the disease of addiction is tough enough without the stigma perpetrated by those who smugly sit in judgment of substance abusers and their families.

            One of the participants on Sunday related how that affected her child.

             "I feel like, with Jamie, it was subtle," said Kim Boyle who lost her son to overdose earlier this year, "and I feel like there was a lot of shame, and he felt like he wanted to do it on his own.

            "I think he was more ashamed about getting help."

            The Citizens Assist race meandered through the beautiful Macoby Run Golf

Runners cross a bridge over the Macoby 
Creek during the event which grossed
around $16,000.

Course offering eye-catching scenery and moments of downhill exhilaration. But there were challenges along the way on formidable hills that required persistence and determination.

            If participants faltered or felt they couldn't go on or even just needed an encouraging word, caring, non-judgmental people were eager to help.

            Similarly, when it comes to drug abuse, there are people and organizations in the Upper Perk community, like Project LIve, more than willing to walk alongside those who are struggling.

            "They're not alone," said Brenna Kriebel, who met Jamie Boyle at Upper Perk High School and stayed with him for five years until his death.

            "There are people out there that can help them," said Brenna. "There are people out there who are not just for judgment, that want to help people, and they don't want to judge them."

            The pains when running a race are nothing compared to the agonies faced by those touched by substance use disorder. Days, weeks, months, years are exhausting marathons seemingly without end.

The Memorial Table at the Citizens Assist race on Sunday allowed friends and families
of overdose victims to remind the public of the tragedy of lives prematurely ended by
substance use disorder.

            "After learning of my daughter's addiction to drugs, I needed to take care of myself before I could help her," related Project Live member Lenore Gates.

            "So, I quickly started searching for support and to learn as much as I could about the disease of addiction. Both of these avenues have become an important guide for my journey."

            During Sunday's event, Lenore carried a walking stick inscribed with over 120 names of those who could not attend but who contributed $1,040 to Project Live through Lenore.

            Any penny, any thoughtful gesture, any kind word might make a difference before another leaves his/her life path and can't find a way back.

            Like Jamie Boyle, former Upper Perk baseball player, an accomplished union roofer given "preferred" status by his bosses in a prestigious firm.

            Many other families and friends were also on hand Sunday with pictures and messages and mementos to honor those lost. Project Live set up a Memorial Table and held a moment of silence before the race to recognize the tragedy of lives cut short and to assure survivors that they have not been forgotten.

            "It was a real feel-good morning," said Winnie Houk, who lost her son Joe three years ago.  "Not knowing what to expect, we found ourselves caught up in the fellowship of the runners and walkers and truly enjoyed the social aspect of the event."

            The Houk family and friends named their team "No Prob Llamas", a reference to a family joke about Joe's desire to own a llama.

            "Participating today gave us the opportunity to think of Joe and share stories," said Winnie, who teaches at a recovery high school, Kolbe Academy.  "As a dear friend said during the event, 'Joe is walking with us.'"

            For those who are still in the "race", there is no finish line anymore. There is no cure to reach out for, only the daily struggle of recovery, but it is possible to travel across level ground and even coast down slopes for long periods of time.

            With help.

            "By sharing with others in similar situations, it provides learning opportunities, peaceful respites and needed connections to make healthy choices for body and soul," Winnie Houk noted.

            The event on Sunday was a major fundraiser for Project Live (projectliveup.org) as it continues to expand its reach and presence in the Upper Perk community. Funds from the race/walk, which attracted around 160 runners and brought in over $11,000 from donors, like the Town and Country, Grand Theater and Stauffer Glove and Safety, will also go to Valley first responders, many of whom were in attendance at the race.

            Area police departments have demonstrated time and time again that they are interested in working with Project Live to get victims help for their problems rather than to punish them.

            As for the race itself, Zionsville's William Daub (20:58) was the top finisher in the 5K, while 12-year-old Morgan Sweed (25:53) of Pennsburg was the first female. In the five-mile, Dan Gerry (33:12) of Harleysville finished first overall and Telford's Karalyn Schmidt (36:26) was the top female finisher.

            Everyone won something on Sunday, even it was just the chance to fondly remember a loved one, like a Jamie Boyle or a Joe Houk.

            "I knew [Jamie] had an addiction when I first met him," related Brenna Krieble. "I didn't think that it was going to take over his life. I knew he was a very strong-willed person. He loved his family. He loved his mom. And all he ever wanted to do in life was help.

            " Addiction takes a part of you."


 

 

 

 

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