A local nonprofit organization is aiming to help those struggling with addiction and mental illness by empowering them through healthy lifestyles.
Runwell West Central Missouri is a local chapter of the national organization Runwell. According to Runwell.com, its mission “is to provide access to alcohol and drug treatment programs through financial scholarships. We also engage individuals in exercise to foster a healthy lifestyle, provide a continuum of care for those in active recovery, and to bring people together in a positive way that helps to break down the negative perceptions of those struggling with addiction.”
The local chapter was started by Runwell Ambassador Dan Bridges about a year ago and its main fundraising focus is contributing to Pettis County drug court programs.
“I reached out to Runwell. I liked the message that they had about using healthy lifestyles and exercise to assist in overcoming addiction,” said Bridges, who is in recovery himself. “I also like what the drug courts are doing in that the jails are over-crowded, the punishment is not cost-effective for the taxpayers, but the drug courts are cheaper and they have a lot higher success rate. … The drug courts allow the individuals to go to treatment and continue to work in the community.”
Bridges said it was slow-going at first when he started the chapter, but Runwell West Central Missouri was able to donate $1,000 last year to the Pettis County Juvenile Drug Court. After he made a presentation at Healthy U’s Couch to 5K kickoff earlier this year, Bridges said more people approached him about getting involved to help spread the word about Runwell.
One of those people was Kami Wolf, a member of Healthy U Class of 2015.
“I’ve struggled in the past and it’s something I can really relate to. It has my heart, I guess you could say,” Wolf said. “I like the message of helping others and I like the purpose of the healthy lifestyle and promoting that and how it can change your life if you’re struggling with anything, addiction but also other things.”
Runwell hosts a variety of events, such as 50/50 raffles at local racing events, to help raise money for local drug court programs.
They are also hosting a whole hog raffle, with processing by Alewels Country Meats, and $10 tickets are available at the Pettis County Probation and Parole Office, 205 Thompson Road in Sedalia, the Pettis County Juvenile Office, on South Lamine Avenue, or from Runwell members.
There will also be a garage sale at 1960 W. Timber Ridge Dr. in Sedalia from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. today and Saturday. Proceeds from both events will benefit the adult and juvenile Pettis County drug courts to use for purchasing incentives for participants, such as gift cards.
The group’s major goal for 2016 is to raise money for Bridges to participate in the New York Marathon on Nov. 6.
“In order to participate in the marathon you have to have this remarkably fast running time, which I do not have, or you can go in on a charity entry and that’s what I’m doing on the Runwell ticket, and with that there’s a minimum of $3,500 that we have to raise in order for me to be able to compete,” Bridges explained. “That’s our big event this year, and then next year we’ll be looking to do other goals. We’d like to have other runners participate, we’ve talked a little about Kami doing something or maybe a group from Sedalia doing an event.”
Starting in May, Runwell will host group runs once a week that are free and open to the public. Bridges said they chose to start in May because it is after the end of Couch to 5K and it can “help keep people motivated and active.”
“We want to meet once a week and we want to change the location and change the times so that if one week you’re unable to make it because of your work schedule possibly the next week you can come and join us,” Bridges said.
Wolf noted the group is for all levels of runners, and Bridges said the workouts could range from a one-mile run/walk at Katy Park or a 5K on the Katy Trail that participants complete at their own pace.
“It’s for all levels. You don’t have to be in recovery, you don’t have to have faced mental health issues to participate,” Bridges said. “You can just be someone who is concerned about the future of the community and come out and learn more about us.
“We’re not saying running and a healthy lifestyle is a cure for addiction or mental health issues, but it’s definitely something that can help and aid in the recovery.”
For more information, visit runwell.com or search for Runwell West Central Missouri on Facebook.
Nicole Cooke can be reached at 660-530-0138 or @NicoleRCooke.