Joe and Kathy Arabia with the mayor for the reading of the Childhood Cancer Awareness Month proclamation last week.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The city recognized September as National Recovery and Childhood Cancer Awareness months and this week as "Hello Week."
Mayor Jennifer Macksey read the proclamations at last week's lengthy City Council meeting. All three awareness initiatives have been recognized by past administrations as well.
The proclamation on National Recovery pointed to the epidemic of drug and substance abuse nationwide and in the North Berkshires.
"Men and women in recovery showcase the power each of us holds to transform ourselves, our families and our community," ready Macksey. "We must encourage relatives and friends of people with mental illness and or other substance-use disorders to implement preventative measures, recognize the signs of a problem and guide those who need appropriate treatment and recovery support systems. ...
"It is critical for all the residents of the city of North Adams to move toward a area where addiction is treated as a significant public health issue."
The reading was applauded by a number of community members who attended the council meeting. Richard Alcombright, the city's former mayor and and longtime advocate for substance abuse recovery and prevention, thanked the mayor and the council for its continued support.
"It is critical that we have the support of our local leaders," he said. "And I just want, on behalf of all of us here and all of us that work this all the time, thank you."
Voices for Recovery will again host its annual community event on Saturday, Sept. 30, from 1 to 3 p.m. at Colegrove Park with information booths on mental wellness and substance recovery and guest speakers.
Kathy and Joseph Arabia joined Macksey at the podium for the reading of the Childhood Cancer Awareness proclamation. The Arabias are the founders and directors of the AYJ Fund, named for their daughter, Anna Yan Ji Arabia, who died from a rare brain cancer called gliomatosis cerebri in 2013.
Childhood cancer is the leading cause of disease-related death in children, said Macksey, and a child is diagnosed with cancer every 80 seconds. One in 285 children in the United States have been diagnosed by their 20th birthday and many survivors of the disease face chronic conditions later in life.
The AYJ Fund provides support to local families with children facing cancer and to cancer research, especially gliomatosis cerebri. Kathy Arabia thanked the council and mayor for their support but noted that the number of children with cancer has not decreased.
"There are a number of new names of children that we're helping in our own community," she said. "A child of 18 months old was recently diagnosed and now has relapsed. We are working with a number of families who've reached out, and increased number of families that are reaching out from outside the area also that we're trying to help."
On the brighter side, two children that they have worked with are now in college, Arabia said. "Until all of these kids are able to achieve their dreams, whatever they are, will continue to fight for them."
Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art is again lighting up "Tree Logic" with golden lights to recognize the month.
This week, Sept. 18 through 22, is "Start with Hello" week, an initiative of the Sandy Hook Promise. The North Adams Public Schools have been participated in this program for some years.
"Sandy Hook practices focus on preventing gun violence and other forms of violence victimization before it happens by promoting educational programs for youth and adults and mental health and wellness programs that identify intervene and help at risk individuals," read Macksey in her proclamation.
The promise is nationwide initiative to build empathy and inclusivity in prekindergarten through Grade 12 schools. Start with Hello is designed to prevent social isolation and create communities of inclusion and connectedness.
North Adams' weeklong awareness campaign will include Wear Green Day (the Sandy Hook Promise color), Walk to School Day, Compliment Day, the Nobody Eats Alone Day/Mix Your Clique, and a Community Welcome Day.
Additionally, Drury High School will be hosting its third annual Day of Service to promote acts of kindness to culminate the week. They will be welcomed by community leaders; hear from Dennis Rebelo, author of "Story Like You Mean It"; participate in blocks of service in North Adams or on the campus. Creating connections has been an underlying theme at Drury with the redesign of the school day to include intentional team building between faculty/staff and students.
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Local Recovery Documentary to Premiere
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The public is invited to "Blueprint: Building the Foundation for Recovery," a new documentary featuring real stories of recovery in the Berkshires.
The film is followed by a community conversation led by local experts including Dr. Jennifer Michaels from The Brien Center, Sarah DeJesus from BHS's Berkshire Harm Reduction, community members from the education field, emergency management, and individuals with lived experience.
The two film premieres are the capstone events for the HEALing Communities Study (HCS). Wednesday, Dec. 13 at 7:00 pm at the MCLA Church Street Center in North Adams and Thursday, Dec. 14 at 7:00 pm at the Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield.
During the past 18 months, local partners from the harm reduction, treatment, and recovery communities have collaborated on a shared goal of reducing opioid overdoses. Over 30 partners from across the Berkshires joined together in the HEALing Communities Study to increase naloxone distribution, raise awareness of all pathways to treatment and recovery, and reduce stigma around substance use disorder.
Blueprint is a new documentary from Outpost Studios weaving together stories from our community with local behavioral health experts. George Cox and iin Purwanti of Outpost Studios have interviewed over a dozen community members for the feature, with original music by local artist Matt Cusson.