LYNNFIELD — Hundreds of residents stood in solidarity with people in recovery and remembered those who lost their lives to addiction during A Night of Hope on Sunday, Sept. 26.
A Healthy Lynnfield and the Think of Michael Foundation sponsored the third annual ceremony once again as part of National Recovery Month. After the 400 residents in attendance were given a T-shirt in front of Lynnfield Middle School, attendees marched down Main Street to the Town Common.
Town Administrator Rob Dolan welcomed townspeople to A Night of Hope.
“All of us are susceptible and touched by addiction,” said Dolan. “We are here tonight to acknowledge that addiction and mental health are real issues. Our goal is to support our friends and family who are struggling with addiction.”
Dolan also said it is critically important to “erase the stigma” associated with addiction and mental health.
“But we also have a goal to celebrate the achievement of this small community by taking this issue head on by partnering with nonprofits such as the Think of Michael Foundation and A Healthy Lynnfield to stand tall, make a true difference and save every life we can,” said Dolan. “Your presence here is more than a walk. You are making a statement. Instead of watching from the sidelines, you are taking a stand to improve our community.”
Dolan thanked House Minority Leader Brad Jones (R-North Reading) and State Sen. Brendan Crighton (D-Lynn) for helping the town receive two state grants that exceeded $100,000 as well as helping the town receive federal grants that exceeded $1 million.
“These two gentlemen helped save lives,” said Dolan.
Dolan thanked AdCare, Aftermath, The Bridge Recovery Center, the Department of Children and Families, Eliot Community Services, The Gavin Foundation, the Massachusetts Organization for Addiction Recovery, North Suffolk Mental Health Association, Recovery on the Harbor, Parenting Journey, Power of Recovery, the Chelsea House in Lynn, Recovery Centers of America, Riverside Community Care and Serenity at Summit (Haverhill)/Delphi Behavior for setting up informational tables in front of the middle school in order to raise awareness about each organization’s programs.
“These organizations do incredible work in Lynnfield and throughout the Commonwealth of Massachusetts,” said Dolan.
Dolan thanked the Lynnfield Clergy Council for helping people in recovery along with their families. He also thanked Boston AV Rental owner Bob Priestley for lighting up the Meeting House in purple in order to support people in recovery.
“Make positive choices”
Select Board member Phil Crawford, who leads A Healthy Lynnfield, thanked the 400 residents for coming to the third annual A Night of Hope.
“I am blown away with the support we have received,” said Crawford. “It means a lot to all of us.”
Crawford recalled that the Select Board formed A Healthy Lynnfield in the spring of 2017.
“Our goal is to bring awareness, education and resources for those in need,” said Crawford. “Our mission is to empower residents to make positive choices every day. Together, we work together to prevent substance misuse, to improve the quality of life for those impacted and to support programs that help all young people thrive.”
Crawford thanked Substance Use Prevention Coordinator Peg Sallade, Drug-Free Communities Program Coordinator Julie Greene and Outreach Coordinator Leanne Bordonaro for diligently working to educate the community about substance use and mental health.
“Thank you for all you do,” said Crawford. “Please reach out to these talented women at any time. They are here to help.”
Crawford also thanked the Think of Michael Foundation’s board of directors, particularly President Carmela Dalton and Treasurer Dick Dalton, for “all of the important work they do.”
The power of hope
Think of Michael Foundation Vice President Jamie Dalton shared his journey on the road to recovery with A Night of Hope’s attendees.
“Recovery is not a race, it’s a journey,” said Dalton. “It’s a lifelong process. My journey started on Jan. 18, 2018, which was the day of my brother Michael’s funeral that was right down the street. That night, I ended a decade long battle that I suffered in silence. From that day forward, I found a new way to live. Along my journey, I have carried my brother with me and I honor him daily as he lives on through me in so many ways. He gives me the strength I need to help others suffering from this disease.”
Dalton noted that he often visits Michael’s grave whenever he is in Everett.
“I always say a prayer and ask for his strength,” said Dalton. “I wear a chain from Saint Michael around my neck that says, ‘Lend me your strength.’ I carry him with me every day on this journey. I know from so many signs that he is and will continue to be with me forever. I learned that stars can’t shine without darkness and my past has given me the strength that has led to the wisdom I have today. I celebrate my past and don’t let it haunt me.”
Dalton said a number of people in the recovery community have inspired him over the past three-and-a-half years. He recalled that one of his mentors, Gerry O’Neill, passed away on Oct. 31, 2020 after he relapsed. He said O’Neill had been in recovery for 12 years.
“Gerry was my first beacon of hope in recovery,” said Dalton. “He drove up from Falmouth two years ago for our first Night of Hope. Afterwards, we had dinner with my family and the next day, Think of Michael gave him a scholarship for two months to a sober home in Falmouth. I did all that I could to help Gerry at that time when our roles were reversed.”
Dalton noted that he now works for the North Suffolk Mental Health Association. He said he always tries to bring “light and happiness” to the people he is trying to help in recovery.
“Gerry was the first person who showed me this new way of life,” said Dalton. “He taught me don’t count your days, make your days count. The best way I can honor my brother and Gerry is by continuing to do what I do every single day. My new job as a recovery coach is simply amazing. I get a chance to save people’s lives, help people grow and make an impact every single day. Seeing other people progress, grow and heal in their recovery and rediscover their hope is very powerful. Hope is the one thing that can get us through the darkest of times. Once you choose hope, anything is possible if you have the right people around you to support you.”
Dalton said the Think of Michael Foundation and A Healthy Lynnfield both want to help people struggling with addiction as well as their families.
“We are here to provide hope for our community,” said Dalton. “My hope is that we can continue to work together as a community on innovative and collaborative solutions to solve problems, break down barriers and remove obstacles to save lives.”
Dalton thanked his parents and his sister Stacey for supporting him throughout his journey in recovery.
“Together in the darkest of times, we decided to form Think of Michael,” said Dalton. “With the help of our family, friends and board members, we have built the foundation to what it is today. We continue to grow and adapt. We have found strength in all of your love and support.”
After Dalton concluded his remarks, he was given a round of applause.
Erasing the stigma
Bridge Recovery Center Program Director Keriann Caccavaro served as the keynote speaker at A Night of Hope. She began her remarks by thanking Dalton for giving a moving speech.
“He did such a great job,” said Caccavaro.
Caccavaro said the town should be incredibly proud that it has hosted A Night of Hope for the past three years.
“Not a lot of communities come together like this,” said Caccavaro. “Lynnfield is the change that every community needs to be.”
Caccavaro recalled that she has been in recovery since June 3, 2014.
“At that time, I was 30-years-old,” said Caccavaro. “I had no real job history and I was homeless. I had strained relationships with my family, and I thought recovery was impossible. If it wasn’t for the recovery community, I don’t think I would be standing here today. All of the organizations that are here tonight carried me at times when I wasn’t able to carry myself. That is what every community needs.”
Caccavaro recalled that her path to recovery started at a drug court in Cambridge.
“I needed a team of people to stand behind me and teach me how to live again,” said Caccavaro. “It’s not just putting the drugs down. I didn’t know how to shop for food or save money. I needed to learn how to be a productive member of society. I needed to learn how to be held accountable. My recovery team taught me how to do that. I was sent to a house with 36 women, and those women became my family. They taught me how to love and how to be honest. That is how I live my life today. I now try to teach other women how to be honest, how to love one another and not to be spiteful.”
Caccavaro said her journey along with the desire to help others battling addiction inspired her to open The Bridge Recovery Center in Malden.
“The center gives people the opportunity to share our stories and remove the stigma,” said Caccavaro. “We fight every single day to live, not to die.”
After Caccavaro concluded her remarks, she was given a round of applause.
Hope shines bright
A Night of Hope’s attendees lit purple votive candles in order to provide hope for people in recovery and remember the people who lost their lives to addiction while Wakefield Lynnfield United Methodist Church Rev. Glenn Mortimer, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church Rev. Robert Bacon, Saint Maria Goretti Pastoral Associate Donna Hegan, Calvary Christian Church Pastor Sue MacNeil, Calvary Christian Church Recovery Pastor Leighton O’Connor, Centre Congregational Church Rev. Nancy Rottman, Ave Maria Parish Rev. Paul Ritt and Ave Maria Parish Deacon Intern Russell Bergman gave the closing prayer.
Dolan thanked the 400 residents for coming to the third annual A Night of Hope.
“Let’s commit tonight to make every night A Night of Hope,” said Dolan.