Every Mother’s Day, my sister and her husband join his family and thousands of others as they convene on the fabled Philadelphia Art Museum steps for the annual “Race for the Cure.” My brother-in-law’s entire family walks in memory of their matriarch who tragically succumbed to breast cancer after a long, hard-fought battle, flagged with several triumphant remissions, but which ultimately ended in devastating relapse. In fact each year, hundreds of families and loved ones participate in the “Race for the Cure”, donning all shades of pink, adorned with “I walk in memory of” tributes and the names of those they’ve lost. But the most revered race participants are those who stride down the Benjamin Franklin Parkway proudly wearing the banner of “survivor,” triumphantly reclaiming their health as they walk the walk in their recovery from cancer.
Cancer, of course, is a very deadly disease which has affected millions of Americans. But according to the USCB “Scienceline” website, when asked “what is the most deadly disease a person can get?” they said:
Well, it depends on how you define “deadliest.” If you mean what kills the most people, the deadliest disease in the US is nicotine addiction. Smoking kills more people than any other disease in America by causing, or helping to cause, heart disease, high blood pressure, several types of cancer.
This doesn’t include the countless other people, many very young, whose struggle with addiction has led to death; either by accident, violence, overdose or perhaps the most overlooked death by addiction, suicide.
Last Fall, after watching the documentary The Anonymous People, one of the RECOVER Project’s members was so struck by a line in the film that said something to the effect of “no one runs races for addicts,” that she brought an idea to the RP community to plan a local road race and was met with wide-spread interest. At one of the first meetings of the newly established “Race for Recovery” committee, Adam Mitchell from the Greenfield Fire Department blazed in, burning with a mission to somehow help the addicts he saw overdosing nearly every day. He declared that since the RP is known for supporting recovery in town, and the first responders had recently experienced such a staggering amount of devastation as a result of the local opiate epidemic, he came to the RECOVER Project to help do something about it. Thus the Firebird 5K was born.
The organizers of the event took off running! Adam joined up with new RP community member Devon De Korver, to get this massive event off the ground. In just six weeks, they had not only established a route through Greenfield, but had also paired with an online run registration site, and had secured several very generous sponsorship pledges from local organizations including the Baystate Franklin Medical Center. Devon even joined with a few other recovery community members to train as a “couch to 5K” team to run in the event. Individual team members raised their own sponsorship donations and the enthusiasm for the event caught on like wildfire. There was even a team comprised of men from the Franklin County Corrections re-entry program- Team Hurricane, who trained with their Corrections Officer. He won with a blazing time of 18:01:00!