• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff

'Crusade Against Addiction' set for June 25

Recovering addicts, their loved ones and others in the community are coming together to bring awareness to the effects of drug abuse and overdose in Woodford County during the "Community Crusade Against Addiction" on Saturday, June 25. This first-ever Crusade begins at Woodford County High School at 8:15 p.m., with walkers marching down North Main Street before a program highlighted by a guest speaker, who will share his story about overcoming addiction, at the Woodford County Courthouse. In addition to raising public awareness, the Crusade is an opportunity to remember those who have lost their lives to a drug overdose, said organizer Angie Stewart. Seeing 50 recovering addicts walking together in a "Crusade Against Addiction" may also give hope to someone still struggling with their own addiction, said Stewart, who has lost many close friends to drug overdoses. She and other recovering addicts - who have become a family - formed Raising Awareness Woodford (R.A.W.) and organized the upcoming Crusade in response to the growing epidemic of drug abuse and overdoses in their community. "You see a 25-year-old's death in the newspaper, but you think: Oh, they must have had cancer or (died) in a car wreck." Instead, many young Woodford Countians are losing their lives to heroin or other drug overdoses. "If this (Crusade Against Addiction) can make a difference for one person then that's our goal," said Stewart, who grew up in Woodford County. She described organizing the event as a team effort to make a difference in the lives of others. "It gives a lot of hope to people who are in recovery," said Jennifer Powell, whose sister, Jolene Berger-Bowman, died of a drug overdose last July 1. "It also gives a lot of hope to those who are thinking about going into recovery." She and Woodford County Jailer Michele Rankin are among those supporting this effort to raise community awareness and give hope to those struggling with a drug addiction. "It's been amazing the support from the community that we've received already," said Stewart, a 2007 graduate of Woodford County Drug Court. Stewart said she could not have overcome her drug addiction and stayed clean for 11 years without people like Woodford Circuit Court Judge Paul Isaacs, who oversees Drug Court. Isaacs believed in her when nobody else did. "He gave me a whole new shot at life," said Stewart, who has a 14-year-old daughter. Stewart was inspired to help organize a "Community Crusade Against Addiction" after participating in a similar walk in Frankfort. She never wants to forget how far she's come to get clean and sober because "I'm so lucky that I made it out," said Stewart, who was an IV drug user before being arrested.

"That felony warrant saved my life," she said.

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