MANCHESTER, NH – No matter how you have come to the point of exhaustion over the city’s drug epidemic, Aug. 29 is the day to come together as a community, for healing and change.
That is the message organizers of the “Stop the Circle” Rally are sending – all are welcome to gather together at Veteran’s Park in unity between 2 and 6 p.m. – those who have been in the trenches with someone who is struggling, those in recovery, those still lost, those who want to learn more. Everyone.
“We are looking to connect people with the help they need,” says really organizer Melissa Laferriere of Manchester, who says she was moved to action after seeing too many stories in her Facebook feed about addiction and overdoses, and too many negative comments diminishing the humanity of those struggling.
There is a full schedule of speakers [see below] including Manchester Police Chief Nick Willard, Cheryl Wilkie of the Farnum Center, Susan Markievitz of the NH chapter of The Addict’s Mom, and Gov. Chris Christie, who has confirmed his appearance, says Laferriere.
She explains the name of the rally – Stop the Circle – seemed right because it represents so many things associated with drug addiction.
“It’s the circle of doctors giving pills, then stopping pills, then people buying drugs. The circle of friends using, drawing friends in, losing friends, dying alone, sadness makes old friends use again and the cycle continues,” says Laferriere. “Stigmas causing hurt, hurt causing addiction, addiction causing stigmas – my hope is to reach people who need to hear these powerful messages of loss but also some of hope and recovery.”
The idea came to her while conversing with a friend in mid-June.
“We were talking one night after reading some of the comments on postings online regarding overdoses, and people’s perceptions of addicts. It was disgusting to us how many people seemed to be on board with calling addicts ‘junkies’ and ‘losers,’ and how people just thought it was OK to let them die, like they were not real people,” Laferriere says.
A week later they connected with Melissa Fortin-Crews of Hope for NH Recovery, and started brainstorming, which led to frequent Saturday night planning sessions, which led to this moment.
Although this is a unique chance to bring people together in one place, rally organizers ultimately hope to reach those suffering with the disease of addiction who are ready for a change.
While the heroin epidemic continues to ravage communities throughout the country, New Hampshire remains the second worst state when it comes to access to treatment, ranking just above Texas, says Laferriere. It’s time to correct that.
“Our goal has always been to just put as many people as we could help in the same place at the same time, so that those who want or need help for themselves, or for someone they love, can come to the park and find out,” Laferriere says.
There will be information tables set up by local agencies, providing an unprecedented opportunity for connections to be made, says Laferriere. From the addict who wants help, but may have been too scared to seek it, to the family members or friends who have lost a loved one and feel alone in their grieving and loss.
Local NH Rock Americana band Floodwatch is scheduled to play throughout the afternoon, and a special guest appearance from writer ‘Matt Ganem the Poet‘ is also on the line-up of the day’s scheduled events.
An “Overdose Memorial” project consisting of small colorful hearts will also be completed by the end of the rally giving attendees an opportunity to acknowledge their loved ones – whether they have lost their battle to addiction, are still struggling with their disease, or are celebrating a life in recovery.
- 1:30 p.m. Set up/Music – Floodwatch
- 2:10 p.m. Melissa Laferriere, Organizer – Opening remarks
- 2:15 p.m. Mayor Ted Gatsas
- 2:25 p.m. Heidi Young, Director Southeastern Services IDCMP
- 2:30 p.m. Senator Kelly Ayotte
- 2:35 p.m. Denise Barbin
- 2:40 p.m. Donna Marston, Families Sharing Without Shame and Author of “Peeling the Onion”
- 2:45 p.m. Chief Nick Willard, Manchester Police Department
- 2:55 p.m. Susan Markievitz, NH Addicts Mom Organization
- 3 p.m. Courtney Babel
- 3:10 p.m. Music – Floodwatch
- 3:30 p.m. Katy Gordon, Elevation Recovery
- 3:40 p.m. Sara Clifford
- 3:45 p.m. Joely Garber
- 3:50 p.m. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie
- 3:55 p.m. Nicole Gibbs, SO NH Opiate Freedom
- 4 p.m. Chris Dinicola, Rise Above Sober Living
- 4:05 p.m. Music – Floodwatch
- 4:30 p.m. Billy, Heroin Is Killing My Town
- 4:40 p.m. Audrey Musso, Jessie’s Law
- 4:45 p.m. Cheryl Wilke, Farnum Center
- 4:50p Matt Ganem, Banyan Treatment Center
- 5:10 p.m. Phatsnax & Diri, Performing “Price of Dope”
- 5:15 p.m. Music – Floodwatch
- 5:45 p.m. Music by Floodwatch while memorial names read, followed by a moment of silence
- 5:55 p.m. Melissa Laferriere, Organizer – Closing Remarks
- 6 p.m. Music – Floodwatch
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