The 11th Run Drugs Out of Town 5K run/walk kicks off Aug. 7 with a balloon release in memory of all those who have been lost to addiction and substance abuse disorder.

The 11th Run Drugs Out of Town 5K run/walk kicks off Aug. 7 with a balloon release in memory of all those who have been lost to addiction and substance abuse disorder.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


FAN hosts Run Drugs Out of Town 5K

By: Brendan Losinski | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published August 26, 2021

 More than 1,300 runners and walkers took part.

More than 1,300 runners and walkers took part.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

 Class of 2021 Fraser High School graduate Eli Dicerbo, of Clinton Township, participated in the event. He ran alongside several current members of the Fraser High cross country team, of which he was also a part of in school.

Class of 2021 Fraser High School graduate Eli Dicerbo, of Clinton Township, participated in the event. He ran alongside several current members of the Fraser High cross country team, of which he was also a part of in school.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

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FRASER — More than 1,300 people gathered at Fraser High School on Aug. 7 to “run drugs out of town.”

They took part in the Run Drugs Out of Town 5K run/walk organized by Families Against Narcotics. It’s an annual fundraiser and awareness-raising event to help the organization in their fight against addiction.

“We’ve been doing Run Drugs Out of Town for about 11 years to raise awareness of the opioid epidemic and substance abuse disorder in general,” said David Clayton, the program director for harmless and outreach coordinator for FAN. “It brings everyone together who either has known someone or lost someone to the disease of addiction, as well as other members of the community who want to see a change in the community they live in.”

A wide range of people took part in the event, including Gail Starzynski, of Eastpointe, who at 73 still takes part every year.

“I’ve been a fan of this organization for a long time because of what they do in the community; trying to get drugs off the street, trying to get medical professionals to understand what some of these drugs have done to people,” Starzynski said. “They’ve done so much work in the community, and I love to run with my friends. I missed the first year they did this event, but I’ve run every year since, even though last year we had to do it virtually.”

Starzynski said she has seen how damaging addiction can be and how it affects whole families, not just individuals.

“A couple of my friends have lost their children to drug addiction, so I’ve seen how hurtful it is and what it can do to families,” she remarked.

FAN had to readjust its event planning since they didn’t host an in-person event last year.

“This year is a little different, since last year, we had a virtual event due to COVID. In 2019, we had about 2,800 people. This year, we have about 1,300 people,” said Tom Nahas, FAN’s creative director. “It’s one of our biggest fundraisers of the year, and it really helps us sustain our ongoing programs such as Harmless, our coaching program,  and Hope Not Handcuffs.”

Clayton said Run Drugs Out of Town helps support a wide range of programs aimed at fighting addiction and helping those with substance abuse disorder.

“Our programming sort of runs the gamut. Our Harmless program is a street outreach team that meets people where they’re at and provides safety supplies and resources for treatment or just being there for people,” he explained. “Hope Not Handcuffs, which was launched in 2017, has placed over 6,000 people into treatment already and is in more than 100 police departments across the state of Michigan. Our Comeback Quick Response Team, which will be peer recovery coaches and family recovery coaches working with a plains-clothes (police) officer doing post-overdose wellness checks. Navigate is also a major program, and that is our peer recovery coach and family recovery coach training program.”

He added that COVID-19 only made addressing issues surrounding addiction all the more important.

“Coming out of COVID, we didn’t know what was going to happen,” Clayton said. “We were hoping we would still be able to have the event at all, but as you can see, we have more than 2,000 people out here today. The disease of addiction was just exasperated by COVID. Our numbers went from 72,000 deaths in 2019 to 93,000 in 2020 (nationwide). … This was influenced by the increase in isolation, treatment centers closing down and jail populations being released. Addiction thrives in isolation.”

Clayton said he is always encouraged when he sees so many people participating in Run Drugs Out of Town. He believes a strong community is a core element in combating addiction.

“This is a community that comes together who wants to see a difference in their community,” he said. “When you see all of these people coming out together for one cause, it’s inspiring. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who hasn’t either been directly affected by the disease of addiction or personally known someone who was, whether it was a friend, a family member, a coworker or whoever else.”

Clayton and Nahas both encouraged anyone who is struggling to seek help and explore what resources are available.

“Reach out. No one needs to struggle alone,” Clayton said. “There are plenty of services people can explore. Reach out to Families Against Narcotics.”

FAN can be reached by calling (586) 38-8500 or by going to www.familiesagainstnarcotics.org/macomb.

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