Team Diesel gathers for a photo during the 2019 Shatter the Stigma 5K at Clawson City Park.

Team Diesel gathers for a photo during the 2019 Shatter the Stigma 5K at Clawson City Park.

Photo provided by Alliance of Coalitions for Healthy Communities

Shatter the Stigma fundraiser goes virtual

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published September 11, 2020


OAKLAND COUNTY — The Alliance of Coalitions for Healthy Communities decided to replace its annual family festival with a monthlong virtual fundraising extravaganza this September, which is National Recovery Month.

Through Wednesday, Sept. 30, the Shatter the Stigma fundraising experience will help fund efforts during these unprecedented times in assisting families with substance misuse prevention, recovery and wellness.

The virtual fundraiser will provide immediate support to families in Oakland County who are struggling with substances during the COVID-19 pandemic through the alliance’s programs and assistance.

According to a report from the New York Times, accidental overdoses rose 13% due to the isolation of COVID-19 in the first half of 2020.

Since a 5K race was a part of the Shatter the Stigma Family Festival, the new virtual format encourages participants to start or support a fundraising team to see who can race to the top in terms of money raised through donations. Prizes will be awarded to the team that raises the most at the end of the month.

Julie Brenner, president and CEO of the Alliance of Coalitions for Healthy Communities, said the alliance was founded in 2004 and includes 21 prevention coalitions throughout Oakland County, with a focus on prevention, wellness and recovery support networks.

Since the onset of the global pandemic, Brenner said, one of the biggest things her group noticed is the lack of connection for people struggling with addiction who need support systems. The alliance closed its doors March 16 and has since been working remotely.

“Obviously, COVID has made for a very isolated environment. What we’ve done is we’ve moved all of our offerings online,” she said. “It was an initiative we had planned strategically for 2021, but because of COVID, we pivoted our resources and programming online as quickly as possible.”

Since April, she said, the alliance has been offering video support groups, as well as offering free Narcan training to combat overdoses. The one-hour training is available online and, afterward, the alliance will mail the medication.

Brenner noted that the group would send a refill if notified of an instance in which the drug naloxone had been administered. Narcan is a brand name for a device that delivers naloxone to combat the effects of an opioid overdose.

“We had over 180 naloxone kits distributed just in the month of August. We do track lives saved, and we know of one life during the month of August having been saved by using the nasal spray,” she said. “EMS was called and the individual was transported directly to a hospital.”

Brenner said the importance of National Recovery Month this September is to ensure every family member — including youths and individuals — has the support they need during a “very stressful time, as we’re seeing an increase in substance abuse and overdose deaths.”

The goal of the fundraiser is to reach $50,000 by the end of the year, with all funding returned directly to programming and the communities that the alliance serves.

Brenner also encouraged participants to get out, get active and stay connected in the spirit of the canceled 5K race. The alliance will host themed weekly updates, including testimonials, memorials and tributes.

“It became a no-brainer for us to switch over to this online platform and be as intentional as possible about getting out there and making sure people know we’re still here, we’re still helping and we really want to help substance misuse and overdose rates,” she said.

Calvin Higgins, an alliance board member and former Drug Enforcement Agency supervisory special agent, said his experience around the world with dangerous substance suppliers and criminal investigations spurred him to get involved in working with communities.

“We couldn’t arrest our way out of it,” he said. “I wanted to do more in substance abuse than just arrest. We need to arrest predators providing to people at their weakest moments, but putting people in jail doesn’t educate.”

He said he had a “front row seat” to the death and destruction caused by substance abuse.

Instead of using law enforcement, Higgins said, the best way to reduce demand is to inform, educate, raise awareness, and provide support and systems for recovery and relapse prevention.

“‘Shatter the Stigma’ — I love the title. It’s not something dark that you shouldn’t come and talk about. People shouldn’t be afraid to reach out for help for recovery or education,” Higgins said. “Alliance offers many, many different programs, not just about drugs and substance abuse.”

Other topics, he said, include vaping, alcohol and managing stress.

For more information about the fundraiser or the Alliance of Coalitions for Healthy Communities, visit, call (248) 221-7101 or email