By Katie Rutland
A local family is hoping to turn its tragedy into hope for others in the New Year.
The fourth annual Joe Davis Memorial Run will return to Walter Elisha Park in downtown Fort Mill on Jan. 9. As in years past, all proceeds benefit Keystone Substance Abuse Services, the Rock Hill-based nonprofit serving York County.
Event organizer Melissa Boyd said her brother Joe Davis struggled with addiction for 15 years. He died due to a heroin overdose on Oct. 4, 2009, after a period of sobriety and recovery. “With addiction we knew that was a possibility,” Boyd said, “Every day is a choice to remain sober.”
Her family turned its pain and suffering over the loss of Joe into a lifeline for others. “We never used Keystone,” said Boyd. “We didn’t know it was a resource in our community.”
In addition to raising funds for Keystone, the family wants to raise awareness about addiction. “There is a stigma associated with (addiction),” she said, “But our family is what we would consider a normal, working, Christian family of faith and it happened to us. Addiction doesn’t discriminate.”
The Joe Davis Memorial Run is strategically planned. Boyd said the early January date is significant because at the beginning of the year so many people are thinking of change, bettering themselves and renewal. There are runs all over the nation to benefit all kinds of causes, but not many for substance abuse recovery. Boyd said that’s because a lot of people and families struggling with addiction live in the shadows, ashamed. “I want to put our story out there so that hopefully it doesn’t happen to somebody else,” Boyd said. “And that people take that wall down. That wall doesn’t need to be there. There’s no shame in it.”
The event includes a 5K run, 10K run and 1-mile fun run. It raised $27,000 for Keystone last year and has grown significantly each year.
“We rely on the community for funding because the folks who come through our doors, we serve them regardless of their ability to pay,” said Keystone’s Marketing and Event Coordinator Monica Hanna.
The proceeds from the race go to help fund programs at Keystone that help men with addiction recovery, job placement and sometimes a place to live. Hanna said the programs for men are the hardest to fund because the patients are typically not eligible for Medicaid, oftentimes unemployed and uninsured and have a difficult time seeking help. “It’s sad that it takes the death of an individual to make something positive happen, but we are lucky that they chose us to help,” Hanna said about Joe Davis’ family. “We feel like the family has helped so many other people in the course of the past several years.”
The center is in Rock Hill, but serves all of York County. Boyd said she wants to help raise Keystone’s profile so more people who need its services know it’s there.
“There’s a what and a why to life, and Joe’s life and death were the what and this race is the why,” she said.
Boyd said her father also struggled with addiction before he died from heart disease in 2000. The family wants to turn its suffering into hope, and help, for others.
“We basically came together and said that we want to stand up and say ‘This happened to us, we don’t want it to happen to you and we want you to know that there shouldn’t be any shame, stigma or guilt associated with saying I have a problem, my loved one has a problem and (is now) getting help.’”
Want to run?
To register and learn more about the Joe Davis Memorial Run, go to joedavisrun.racesonline.com.
To learn more about Keystone Substance Abuse Services, go to keystoneyork.org.