The fourth annual “We Say Nope to Dope Walk” will take place Saturday in Westminster, kicking off a trio of events focused on preventing and healing from drug addiction.
An event of the Triangle Recovery Club, a nonprofit which hosts many support meetings, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, the walk is a family friendly walk of hope, defiance, and celebration of recovery, according to event organizer Tim Weber.
“We are tired of the overdoses, we are tired of the drugs on the corners, and we are tired of the deaths,” Weber wrote in an email about the event.
A rash of 11 overdoses over the weekend of May 4 led the Carroll County Health Department to issue an overdose alert, and Carroll County saw 17 fatal drug or alcohol overdoses in the first four months of 2019, according to Carroll County Sheriff’s Office statistics.
The Say Nope to Dope Walk runs from 9 a.m. until 12:30 p.m., beginning with a speaker, in front of the Triangle Recovery Club at 2 North Court St., Westminster, then moving into a walk and ending with free food and music.
“We get there at 9 a.m., start the walk at 10 a.m.; everybody gets their signs that say, ‘Say Nope to Dope.’ We walk all the way down Main Street to Vince’s Seafood and turn around and come back,” Weber explained in an interview. “It’s really a lot of camaraderie, just people getting together and getting to know each other.”
Baltimore musician B-RAiN, who provided music for the recent “Heroin Still Kills” film, will play live music.
“It’s a fun day, as crazy as that sounds. I think it’s a coming together, a kind of community block party,” said Linda Auerback, substance use prevention supervisor at the Carroll County Health Department, who noted the event brought out around 200 people in 2018. “I think it also says something to people who are trying to bring drugs into our county, that we are standing up against them.”
That was certainly the spirit in which Weber conceived of the event, which was inspired by a TV program on Safe Streets, Baltimore City's violence and drug intervention program. The walk was a way to send a message that heroin and other drugs were not welcome in Carroll County, but also to honor those who had been lost.
“The reason I picked this day to do it is because of Joey Vennari. He was my best friend in high school,” Weber said. “He died on Preakness Saturday.”
The walk also precedes what will be the fifth annual Carroll County State’s Attorney’s Office Overdose Vigil, to be held Tuesday, May 21, at Carroll Community College, which Weber also plans to attend. The walk “really kind of leads us into what I consider the most healing night in the county,” he said.
And on Wednesday, May 22, the Health Department will host its annual first responders dinner, a thank-you to the law enforcement, fire and emergency medical professionals that save the lives of people battling addiction in Carroll County. The week of May 12 is National Prevention Week, Auerback noted, and The week of May 19 is National EMS week.
On Saturday, she will be there to walk, personally and professionally.
“I always have our prevention information with us,” Auerback said. “We are the outreach face of the health department so if people see us out there and call the prevention office we can direct them to the resources they need.”
Attending the walk for the first time will be Carroll County Commissioner Eric Bouchat, R-District 4, who will be speaking at the beginning of the morning.
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“I want to make sure that everyone out there remembers that these individuals who are suffering from addiction are our brothers and sisters,” he said. “They are not derelicts, they are not to be forgotten, they are just as much citizens as everyone else and it’s wrong for any of us to turn on our back on them.”