Every single attendee affected by addiction in some way. Many of their stories are tragic, heartbreaking even, but from their stories come inspiration, motivation and hope. There is hope for those suffering from the disease of addiction because there is proof that addicts recover, that treatment works, that peer support helps, and we can fight the stigma. Because of this event and the people that come together to make it a success, the conversation about addiction is already starting to change.
“The stories I heard at the rally were truly gut wrenching but those with whom I spoke seemed to be filled with optimism and shared their stories to help end the suffering of others and help break the stigma of addiction,” said Dan Bridges, Runwell ambassador and attendee at the weekend events. Patty Vehmeyer, another ambassador in attendance had a similar emotional experience, “This was my first time at this rally. My son has battled with addiction for 10 years. It really hit home when I met moms and dads who have lost children to this terrible disease. That could be me. I talked with and cried with so many parents. I am thankful to still have my son but I know every day is a challenge for him. I felt so much love and at the same time so much sadness. There was so much emotion.”
This year, Runwell had the opportunity to combine the events over the weekend with the first annual ambassador retreat where most of them met face to face for the first time. They shared their stories, developed friendships and learned about metabolic efficiency from some of our partners, Bob Seebohar and Dina Griffin from Generation UCAN and eNRG Performance, and how to use products like Generation UCAN to fuel athletic performance and recovery.
“We chose to hold our first annual Ambassador Retreat in Washington D.C. this year in conjunction with the FedUp Rally and United To Face Addiction Rally, says Linda Quirk, Runwell Founder, “It was our way of immersing our ambassadors both in Runwell’s mission and the larger mission of breaking down the stigma and showing the positive effects of treatment and recovery from the disease of addiction. We wanted them to see that we are not alone in what we are trying to accomplish, and to truly understand the necessity of our mission as well as reality of how this disease affects so many around our country.”
The ambassador retreat will become a tradition for Runwell in the years to come, considering the uplifting nature and team camaraderie this first-time event spurred.
“It was wonderful meeting all the other ambassadors,” says Vehmeyer, “I learned so much from them and feel that I have made some lifelong friends. I feel that this group of people really understands me and what I have been through. There was no judging going on, just lots of support and love for one another.”
“Runwell is a godsend for so many, and will be for many more in the future,” says Michael Schaffer, Runwell’s lead ambassador, “I learn more each day about how lucky we all are that Linda [Quirk, Runwell Founder] chose to make a difference in the world, and I am grateful to her for leading us as we ‘change lives, one footprint at a time.’”
Katie Friedlander is one of Runwell’s newer ambassadors, was intimidated at first, “I sometimes struggle with thinking I am a runner, and I also compare my story to others, and I think mine isn’t as serious or tragic as some, so I don’t think I belong. This weekend really changed me. I felt so welcomed and loved, and I have been riding the wave of being spiritually fit since I got home. I look forward to being a part of this family.”
To our supporters, our ambassadors, our leaders: thank you. To the FED UP and UNITE to Face Addiction organizers: thank you. We have a long way to go, but that’s never stopped us!