The annual walk, hosted by HOPE Sheds Light, provides hope and support to families that are impacted by substance use disorder.
TOMS RIVER, NJ – “The journey toward hope and recovery might be difficult, but the transformation at the end is really wonderful to see,” said Stephen Willis at HOPE Sheds Light’s 7th Annual Celebration of HOPE Walk.
Willis, HOPE Sheds Light Co-founder, has been the master of ceremonies for all seven of HOPE Sheds Light’s annual walks, although things looked much different this year as the COVID-19 pandemic led the Toms River-based non-profit organization to make the walk virtual.
Dedicated to educating families on the disease of substance use disorder, HOPE Sheds Light held its virtual walk at its usual spot on the Hiering Avenue Boardwalk in Seaside Heights, however instead of thousands circled around the stage, they circled around their computers and mobile devices as they prepared to walk from different locations from state to state.
“Before COVID-19, New Jersey was dealing with the addiction epidemic,” said Pamela Capaci, CEO of HOPE Sheds Light. “Since the pandemic, there has been a 20 percent increase in overdose deaths in New Jersey compared to this time last year. This is why we must continue to raise awareness and support those impacted by substance use disorder.”
“2020 has certainly been a challenge and the months ahead may present us with even more obstacles as we address the ongoing health and socioeconomic impact COVID will have on so many families,” said Willis. “But HOPE remains here, and God’s got us. And we will continue to serve the families of this community and beyond. It’s our promise and our blessing.”
Pastor Sue Jones opened in prayer, followed by opening remarks from Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley D. Billhimer and Ocean County Freeholder Virginia Haines. “From my perspective as the prosecutor, the way we do this is different,” said Billhimer. “The way the courts do this is different and it’s because of organizations like HOPE Sheds Light that was born out of brokenness. That was born out of the hope for something better so that this doesn’t happen to someone else’s kids. We will continue to fight this battle and we will do it through education and prevention. And we will approach it differently because substance use disorder is a disease and that’s why we are all here.”
At the annual HOPE Walk, the community comes together to celebrate recovery and provide hope to those affected. “We especially want to extend our sincere appreciation to this year’s Celebration of HOPE walk sponsors and all of our virtual walkers and teams,” said Capaci. “It was a wonderful day and we are so appreciative for all the community support we received both near and far.”
HOPE Sheds Light continues to lead by offering innovative approaches to remain connected and relevant and available to anyone in need in our community. “Over the past two years, HOPE Sheds light has been awarded five grants from state and county agencies to assist with our creative programming and reach even more families in need,” said Willis. “This year HOPE will expand its focus to work with families and youth by partnering with Ocean County to spend the year developing strategies to bring a recovery high school to our community. We are also introducing a 12-month anti-stigma campaign called Recovery Speaks: Embracing the Journey.” Details about the yearlong initiative will soon be available at HOPEShedsLight.org.
“It’s a wonderful thing to know that at any moment we have the freedom, the ability and certainly the power to choose what we do and how we live our lives,” said Willis. We can choose to be a victim and feel helpless or we can choose to get brave with God’s grace and work together for positive change. We are free to choose joy over sadness. Understanding and love over anger and resentment. And we can absolutely choose to embrace recovery and speaking out loud and asking for help and showing up. When we do it together, our recovery can become real and we can celebrate and feel proud of ourselves for the work we’ve done. Let’s get brave together. I promise HOPE will be here for you when you need us.”
The virtual event featured the stories of three individuals in recovery. To hear their stories, please click here. HOPE Sheds Light’s 2020 Digital Resource Guide and Event journal is available online at HOPEShedsLight.org.
About HOPE Sheds Light, Inc.
HOPE Sheds Light, Inc. is an IRS 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization (Tax ID: 46-3910504) that is supported by friends and families directly affected by substance use disorder and found recovery through continuous love, support and understanding. The mission of HOPE Sheds Light is to raise awareness and educate individuals, families and the community about the impact of substance use disorder by having the courage to share personal experiences and offer strength, wisdom, hope and resources that lead to positive community change and long-term recovery. To learn more, please visit HOPEShedsLight.org.