Whether someone has been clean for five hours or five years, getting and staying sober is something each person needs to do for themselves.

“You need to step up, be your own hero, show up for your own life and do what you need to do in order to move forward,” says Charlotte Yellowhorn McLeod, Indigenous cultural coordinator at Aspen Family & Community Network Society, one of more than 20 organizations that helped organize and fund Calgary’s 21st annual Wellness Walk for sobriety earlier this month.

Every step away from addiction and towards a healthy life makes a difference. Because addiction doesn’t just affect one person: it also affects that person’s family, relatives and friends, says Charlotte, whose nephew died this past spring because of addiction.

Calgary’s 2017 Wellness Walk was supported by approximately 22 member agencies, including Aspen Family & Community Network Society. The goal, was to promote positive actions to increase awareness of addiction, promote healthy living, and prevent substance abuse and addictive behaviors such as gambling dependency.  In Calgary, National Addiction Awareness Week took place Nov. 12 – 18, kicking off Nov. 13 with the Wellness Walk, which drew approximately 300 participants.

“It’s an important event, especially given the opioid crisis,” says  Shelly Wade, team leader at Aspen Hand-in-Hand Parent Link Centres, which provide free programming to parents and children from newborns to age six in Calgary and Strathmore. “It’s really important for Calgarians to see the positive side of what’s happening in sobriety and addiction, in terms of the sheer number of people that are working through their sobriety. Typically in the news you don’t see this side – that there are people that are working on their sobriety, there is a community and there are a number of agencies supporting that community.”

2017 Wellness Walk participants had more than 523 years of collective sobriety. “The thing that impressed me is all of the participants that came and were able to stand up and be proud of how long they were sober,” Shelly says.

The Wellness Walk started at Millennium Park with a welcome by master of ceremonies Jordan Bareshinbone of Sunrise Native Addiction Services, and an opening prayer and honor song by Lloyd Ewenin, a First Nations elder at Calgary Alpha House.

The approximately hour-long Wellness Walk through downtown Calgary ended up at the Kerby Centre, where participants were served a chili lunch prepared by Fresh Start and sponsored by Foresters Financial Group.

“A special thank you to Foresters Financial Group and to Kevin, the chef from Fresh Start, and the people who went in on their day off to make the chili and transport the food to the Kerby Centre,” Shelly says.

The Wellness Walk event also included an awards ceremony, with elder Lloyd presenting the Aaron Niles Humanitarian Award to organizations and individuals. Lloyd supported Aaron Niles for several years before the young Calgarian died from an overdose. The Aaron Niles Humanitarian Award, funded by Lloyd and the Niles family, honors Aaron’s memory.

In addition to Aspen Family & Community Network Society, Wellness Walk participating agencies included AARC, Alcove, Aventa Treatment, Bow Valley College, Calgary Keys to Recovery Society, Calgary Alpha House, Eastside Victory Outreach, Fresh Start, Fresh Start Alumnae,  HIV Community Link, Keys to Recovery,  McMan Youth, Family and Community Services, Oxford House, Sunrise Native Addiction Services and The Alex.

Visit the Wellness Walk Calgary Facebook page for more information.



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