PIQUA — Hope Over Heroin is back and aiming to inspire more hope for a region beat down by the ongoing heroin epidemic.
The event will be held this weekend at Mote Park, 635 Gordon St., Piqua, beginning Friday with live music and stories of deliverance starting at 7 p.m.
On Saturday, local dignitaries will speak at approximately 4 p.m. and a prayer march will be held at 4:30 p.m. There will also be a free meal that day at 5:30 p.m. along with more music and stories of deliverance at 7 p.m.
While it’s being held in Piqua, everyone in Miami County is encouraged to attend whether they’re an addict looking for help, someone personally affected by the health crisis, or someone looking for more education.
“The event is not just for heroin addicts, it’s for everyone,” Aaron Simmons, chair of Hope Over Heroin, said. “There is hope out there.”
On Friday and Saturday night, the stories of deliverance will be testimonies from addicts who have gotten clean and are going through steps of recovery, whether they’re doing that through a church or another organization.
“They’ll be sharing their stories,” Simmons said. “Then a message of hope is shared.”
The event is a religious event with the message of hope being centered on Christ. Numerous churches in the area are also participating in the event, so much so that Simmons noted that church participation and the number of volunteers is already up from last year.
On Saturday, local dignitaries will be coming together to raise awareness about the heroin epidemic and share their commitment to seeing it end.
“We’re going to stand arm-to-arm against this epidemic,” Simmons said.
There will be a memorial wall at the event in remembrance of people who passed away due to the heroin epidemic. To have a name added to the wall, Simmons said they can go to hopeoverheroin.com. The memorial march following the speeches has the goal of remembering those people and putting a face on the epidemic. Simmons added that they hope to provide a public arena for people to grieve together as a community.
For the free meal, the event will be giving away hot dogs.
“We’ve prepared 3,000 hot dog meals,” Simmons said.
Between dinner and the next big event at 7 p.m., Hope Over Heroin will providing information on various resources pertaining to drug addiction and be giving people the opportunity to get people in recovery that night. Then at 7 p.m., there will be more music and personal testimonies shared.
“It’s getting people help,” Simmons said.
Last year, the event saw approximately 3,000 attendees. Simmons added they had more than 100 people commit themselves to Christ through prayer, and approximately 50 people were baptized. Simmons, who is also the pastor of the Upper Room Church in Tipp City and a lieutenant in the Troy Fire Department, is still personally mentoring four men who decided to change their lives after that event.
Simmons, with his two hats in the community as both a man of God and a civil servant, was inspired to get involved in trying to address the health crisis after witnessing the impact of the heroin epidemic firsthand.
“I’m seeing it in both worlds,” Simmons said. As a pastor, Simmons sees how families are hurting over the crisis, and as a lieutenant in the Troy Fire Department, he is one of the firefighter-EMS personnel to respond to drug overdoses. “I want to see the community change and people’s lives improved.”
Simmons explained that, last year, the Miami County Heroin Coalition used Hope Over Heroin as their public announcement of the formation of the coalition.
“The Miami County Heroin Coalition asked us to do it again,” Simmons said, adding that it was the coalition’s biggest opportunity to market themselves and their resources to the community.
“We’re seeing lives change,” Simmons said. “It’s one piece of the big movement of what’s happening in the grassroots movement in Miami County.”
Reach Sam Wildow at firstname.lastname@example.org or (937) 451-3336