HANCOCK COUNTY — Lyndsey Denney’s immediate family huddled together in the Courthouse Plaza. They were there to tell the crowd how much they miss and love the young woman who died from a drug overdose earlier this summer, despite an intense battle against her addiction.
The moment is always the most difficult part of the annual Recovery Walk, held each year to give the community a chance to look back on a life lost to drug addiction. This year’s event took place Saturday, Sept. 26, where organizers shined the light on Lyndsey’s life.
“I’m happy for all the people who are here and who are in recovery, but it’s so hard not having Lyndsey here, said her mother, Tonjia Hullinger Denney. “She used to cry and there was so much guilt; she was so ashamed of being addicted.”
Still, there was hope on a gray morning, despite many heavy hearts. The walk is designed to give support, and vendors and many supporters were on hand to remind families battling addition they are not alone.
“There are more people living in recovery than you know,” said event organizer Linda Ostewig, who operates The Landing Place, a safe haven for teens battling addiction and an organizer of the event.
Greenfield Mayor Chuck Fewell, a former longtime law enforcement officer; and Hancock County Circuit Court Judge Scott Sirk, who oversees the county’s drug protocol program, spoke at the gathering, encouraging the crowd before a three-mile walk.
“We’re not going to put our heads in the sand and act like these problems don’t exist here,” Fewell said. “Hancock County is a recovery county.”
The event, Sirk noted, is for people and families enveloped in the cycle of drug and alcohol addiction to know they are not alone. Sirk delivered an inspirational speech about Lyndsey, hoping her death would not be in vain, saying her life was about much more than her addiction.
“Here on earth, her physical body surrendered to addiction, but her spirit is motivating others to end addiction,” Sirk said.
Sirk, Fewell, Prosecutor Brent Eaton, and the community members supporting the event hoped it would show those battling addiction their lives matter.
In 2019, the Greenfield Police Department registered 10 uses of Narcan, an emergency antidote to revive people who have overdosed. This year, Fewell noted, officers already have had to use Narcan 14 times. While the increase is concerning, the statistics show that if officers can arrive in time and administer Narcan, the medicine can save a life.
The city had 17 overdoses in 2019, resulting in 10 deaths. The number of overdoses is up to 29 so far in 2020, but only five of the 29 have resulted in death, showing the emergency intervention is making a difference.
“We’re cutting the deaths,” Fewell said.
Beth Ingle is coordinator of the county’s Drug Court. She was at the Recovery Walk representing the Women’s Resource Center in Greenfield. Without these types of events, she said, people who struggle with addiction and their families would suffer in silence.
“There might be a person out there who has a substance disorder who has not gotten to the stage of ‘Where do I go?’” Ingle said.
The Recovery Walk is a good event to showcase the types of resources available in the county and in nearby Indianapolis, Ingle noted.
Matt Ottinger is a group leader at The Landing Place and appreciated the opportunity the Recovery Walk provides for entities trying to connect with people in need in the community.
“We see issues every day with middle and high school kids, but we do see them make positive changes, and getting the word out there is what this is all about,” Ottinger said.
Sirk said those who are struggling don’t have to do it alone.
“There is such a stigma surrounding recovery, almost a shame associated with it, so this is an event to let people know who are struggling that they are loved, and they need to know that,” Sirk said.