OLEAN — With National Recovery Month just around the corner, Council on Addiction Recovery Services will hold a community event to provide a message of hope in face of the region’s opioid epidemic.
CAReS’ second annual Recovery Fest Sept. 9, set from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., will include speakers, music, food and approximately 40 vendors, including those offering information on treatment options and just living a healthy lifestyle. After the first annual fest was held in Lincoln Park, this year’s event will be held in War Veterans Park to accommodate the larger number of vendors and the anticipated larger number of attendees.
CAReS group therapy coordinator and Recovery Fest coordinator Kim Nicholas said the goal of the event is to not only address addiction to substances like heroin, which caused 11 overdoses in Cattaraugus County in the first half of 2017, but to also focus on what comes after addiction: recovery.
“I think what we really wanted to do is kind of provide some light and hope and say, ‘Hey, we’re here for you, we want to support you in your recovery,’” Nicholas said. “I think having the event is one way to bring attention to the fact this is a dangerous disease, but there is a flipside to it that — there is help at the end of that and it doesn’t have to be the end of your life. It could be the beginning.”
In addition to speakers who have dealt with their own addiction issues, Recovery Fest will also feature appearances by local leaders like Olean Mayor Bill Aiello, State Sen. Catharine Young and Assemblyman Joseph Giglio.
“We don’t just have our immediate support from CAReS staff and its clients, but we also have support from our mayor and on a state level,” Nicholas said.
There will also be a message of hope and support in the music. Johnathan Celestin, a Washington, D.C.-based pop singer who will perform at the event, describes his music as empowering and positive for marginalized people. A CAReS staffer approached him after his CNY Pride Week performance in Syracuse because she felt his songs would mesh well with the event.
“I’m honored that they thought me to be fit for this truly important cause,” said Celestin, adding he plans to make a few changes to his live set to make it even more impactful for the Recovery Fest audience.
Chord of Three Strands and Goodbye Dawn will also perform.
Although there is no admission, there will be food available for purchase from Good Times of Olean. There will also be a bake sale, with funds generated going toward CAReS’ male rehabilitation facility Weston’s Manor.
Recovery Fest is an alcohol-free event with kid-friendly activities like face painting.
Nicholas said the event is an important way of destigmatizing addiction.
“A lot of addiction lives in secrecy,” she said. “I think there’s a real stigma and shame around it that shouldn’t be there. Our slogan is addiction is a disease, recovery is the cure.
“When you have a hush-hush situation, it gives (addiction) a chance to thrive and really take over a community. … There’s been an awful lot of loss in the community in the last year, and along with that loss is maybe an opportunity for people to speak up.”