By DAN TOMASELLO
LYNNFIELD — A Night of Hope is returning to town on Sunday, Sept. 26, beginning at 6 p.m. at Lynnfield Middle School.
The Think of Michael Foundation and A Healthy Lynnfield are hosting the third annual A Night of Hope in observance of National Recovery Month, which honors people in recovery and also remembers those who lost their lives to addiction.
A Healthy Lynnfield is the town’s substance use prevention coalition, which encourages people to make healthy choices. Select Board Chairman Dick Dalton and his family formed the Think of Michael Foundation after their son and brother, Michael, passed away from an opioid overdose in January 2018. The foundation awards scholarships to people in recovery that allows them to stay in a certified sober house.
Think of Michael President Carmela Dalton recalled that the COVID-19 pandemic forced last year’s event to be a car procession around town instead of the walk and vigil that took place two years ago.
“We are thrilled that we are going to have the walk and vigil this year after we had the procession last year,” said Carmela. “It brings the community together, erases the stigma and provides support for those suffering from substance use disorder and their families. It’s also a way to remember people who have succumbed to this insidious disease.”
“It’s great to have A Night of Hope back again,” said Dick, who serves as the Think of Michael Foundation’s treasurer. “It’s important to have an event like this because talking about addiction out in the open goes a long way toward erasing the stigma. That’s very important.”
Select Board member Phil Crawford, who leads A Healthy Lynnfield, said addiction and mental health are issues that “affect everyone in town.”
“It’s a great community event that is going to be just like the first year,” said Crawford. “I hope everyone in town attends and supports this important cause.”
Substance Use Prevention Coordinator Peg Sallade concurred with Crawford’s viewpoint.
“I am thrilled that The Think of Michael Foundation and A Healthy Lynnfield can bring this event to the community for the third year running,” said Sallade. “It is a great partnership and the event brings a sense of hope and support for all those impacted.”
When attendees arrive at the middle school, Carmela said townspeople will be receiving a purple T-shirt and a purple ribbon because purple is the official color of recovery. She also said townspeople will be receiving paper stars that will allow attendees to write special messages in honor of people in recovery as well as individuals who passed away.
“A lot of people like that because it shows they are not alone,” said Carmela. “There is a problem and everybody is aware of it.”
Carmela said attendees will be receiving a mask as well. She said attendees will be abiding by COVID regulations.
After attendees gather at the middle school, they will proceed down Main Street to the Town Common. A Night of Hope will feature speakers, including special guest Keriann Caccavaro. She is the program director of the Bridge Recovery Center in Malden.
“It’s important for people who gather on the Common to listen to someone tell their own story,” said Dick. “I think that is important for both young and old to hear there is hope.”
After the speakers conclude their remarks, attendees will be lighting purple votive candles in order to provide hope to people in recovery as well as remember people who lost their battle with addiction. The ceremony will end with members of the Lynnfield Clergy Association giving a brief blessing.
“We will put the votive candles on when the clergy is doing the blessing,” said Carmela.
Dick urged parents to bring their children to A Night of Hope.
“That will open up a conversation not only that night, but at home as well,” said Dick. “If we are really going to address the stigma, the more conversations we have, the better. We have to educate people if we are going to reduce the amount of people falling victim to substance use. A Healthy Lynnfield plays a big role with educating the community.”
Dick recalled that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently reported that 13 percent of Americans have started or have increased their use of alcohol and drugs in order cope with the stress and emotions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The American Medical Association has also reported that more than 40 U.S. states have seen increases in opioid-related deaths.
“The last year-and-a-half has been very difficult for people with addiction,” said Dick. “With the different restrictions, it has been difficult for us getting people into sober homes because capacity went way down because there couldn’t be multiple people in a room.”
After Michael passed away three-and-a-half years ago, Carmela said a number of people have shared their stories with the Dalton family.
“We are trying to make everyone seeking help feel comfortable,” said Carmela. “We are here to help them.”
Dick echoed his wife’s sentiment.
“We want to help people,” said Dick. “Over the last several years, we have developed a network that has grown and continues to grow. It’s eye-opening to see the good work being done by a lot of people.”
Carmela encouraged residents to attend A Night of Hope.
“Always remember that when someone you love becomes a memory, the memory becomes a treasure,” said Carmela. “Let’s continue to hold onto that special treasure of those who have succumbed to this insidious disease. Let’s give hope, love and health to support those in recovery who are trying to overcome these demons. Let’s erase the stigma.”