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Softball game levels the playing field

The fourth annual Drive Out Drugs Recovery Festival will bring together recovering addicts and some of the local law enforcement officials who likely arrested them in years past for a good old-fashioned game of softball.

This year’s event, slated for Friday and Saturday, Sept. 29-30, at the Harry and David ballfield, will kick off with the "Cops and Robbers"-themed game Friday followed by a “Guns and Hoses” game between local police and firefighters on Saturday. The festival had been set for this weekend but was rescheduled because of wildfire smoke.

Douglas Gould, executive director of Foundations for Recovery, said the game between recovering addicts and local cops was an exciting addition for the annual festival.

Each team will feature 11 members. Law enforcement will don blue jerseys while those in recovery will sport jailhouse orange with, on the back, a number reflecting their years in recovery.

Gould said the annual event is a celebration of sorts for the hard work done between those in recovery and the network of community agencies that have helped them along the way in a time when most community members' day-to-day interactions with addiction issues are largely negative.

Foundations for Recovery, a faith-based addiction recovery program that pairs recovering addicts with a life coach of sorts in a peer-mentoring program, opened in Jackson County in December 2011.

Gould, one of the first peer mentor trainees when the program began, said the growth of the program showed that it was needed in the Rogue Valley.

The program began in a 400-square-foot space in the downtown Medford Woolworth building, later moving to a 1,200-square-foot space on Central Avenue and now a 3,300-square-foot office space at Sixth and Ivy streets.

“We decided this festival was just really important because it helps us to shine a positive light on the work we’re doing," Gould said. "The community sees so much of the negative, but there’s actually a lot of positive going on.

“Our hope is we’ll have members of our community that come out who may not be in recovery yet but they want to come see what it’s about," he said. "We’re trying to focus on how addiction robs people of their families, their jobs, their faith — and how they can have the opportunity to get those things back.”

Central Point police Detective Josh Abbott said he looked forward to the annual event and supporting an organization that provides opportunities for rebuilding lives.

Abbott, set to play in Saturday’s “Guns and Hoses” game, applauded the addition of the “Cops and Robbers” matchup.

“I think I can speak for most officers when I say that one of the best benefits of the job is when you have someone you’ve dealt with who was struggling with addiction and you see them later on and they’ve got their life put together,” Abbott said.

“And they tell you that something you did helped to change their outcome and that they probably wouldn’t be where they are if you had not been involved. I don’t think anything else tugs at your heartstrings quite like that.”

Abbott added, “You get to know some of these people, and even while you’re putting them in handcuffs, you’re always hoping and praying they’re going to get on the right track.”

Scotty White, office manager and senior coach for Foundations for Recovery, said the festival is a way to highlight the importance of community support.

“When you go to a meeting and somebody gets up for their 24-hour or 30-day chip, it’s cool to see how many people are there to cheer them on. That’s what we’re about, offering that support,” White said, noting that the weekend’s games were a fun way for former arrestees to meet those who gave them a nudge in the right direction.

“I know for a fact these guys are in it to say, ‘Hey, remember that time you threw me down?’ It’s a case of, ‘Hey look how good I’m doing now.’ Every police officer I’ve talked to is so proud of these guys and, instead of arresting them, being able to say, ‘Hey, welcome to society.’ ”

The weekend’s events kick off with the “Cops and Robbers” softball game at 6 p.m. Friday.

Saturday’s events begin at 9 a.m., with a carnival from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. featuring pony rides, game booths, games, music, a dunk tank, a water slide and a bounce house. The "Guns and Hoses" softball tournament features four games throughout the day with the championship game set for 6 p.m.

Admission to the festival is free, and includes a free hot dog and drink, with raffle prizes, additional refreshments and carnival attractions for an additional charge.

Details online: ffrhope.com

Reach freelance writer Buffy Pollock at buffyp76@yahoo.com.