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Pandemic knocks out softball tournament celebrating addiction recovery

Police officers and recovered addicts won’t be facing off against each other in their annual softball tournament.

The Strong & Courageous Recovery Festival planned for Sept. 11-12 has been called off amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The annual event attracted crowds of up to 1,500 people to cheer on people in recovery, police, firefighters, paramedics, pastors and others intent on showing recovery from addiction is possible.

The festival included a spirited softball tournament, plus dozens of local organizations offering information on help that’s available for addiction, mental health problems and other issues.

Doug Gould, organizer of the festival and executive director of the faith-based Restoring Our Community Recovery Center in Medford, said he was concerned about staging a large event that could potentially expose participants to COVID-19.

Another factor in his decision to cancel the event is the economic downturn that has accompanied the COVID-19 pandemic. The festival is the ROC Recovery Center’s biggest fundraiser of the year and relies on sponsorships from individuals and the faith and business communities.

“A lot of our businesses are hurting, too,” Gould said. “The festival is always a sponsor-driven event. I know businesses would still be more than happy to support the festival, but it just didn’t sit well with me to ask them for money.”

He said it takes months of planning, marketing, advertising, securing supplies and arranging the venue to pull off the event at Harry & David Field at the U.S. Cellular Park sports complex in Medford.

Although Oregon has eased restrictions on gatherings and businesses, the state is facing rising COVID-19 numbers. Gov. Kate Brown has ordered Oregonians to wear face coverings in indoor public spaces, and more health rules could go into effect if current measures don’t dampen the spread of the virus. Outdoor events are currently limited to 100 people.

For now, Gould said there’s too much uncertainty to plan a major September event.

However, he said local police and firefighters have already signaled their support for a single softball game, possibly on Oct. 10.

The game would feature all-star police and firefighter players battling against people in recovery and military veterans, he said.

Gould said he’s asked the Medford Police Department, the Central Point Police Department and Jackson County Fire Districts No. 3 and 5 if they want to play in the softball game.

“They all responded, ‘Whatever you need for the ROC Recovery Center and the recovery community, we’re there,’” Gould said.

Some people who spiral down into addiction begin committing crimes to support their habits, leading them into the criminal justice system. Others overdose and have to be rescued by police and paramedics who carry overdose antidote medication.

The annual multi-game softball tournament reunites people who’ve beaten substance abuse and recovered their health with the police and paramedics who intervene when people are in the depths of addiction. It’s a reminder to both sides to never give up hope.

Last year, eight softball teams took to the field for the Strong & Courageous Recovery Festival.

Gould said hosting a single softball game in October would be a way to bring people together with less risk.

He said the Medford Rogues baseball club, which makes its home at Harry & David Field, is working with the ROC Recovery Center for use of the facility for the softball game. A local car dealer is also willing to donate a vehicle to be raffled off as a fundraiser.

Amid the uncertainty about the pandemic, the ROC Recovery Center is continuing on with its mission to help people struggling with addiction, mental illness, domestic violence, homelessness and emotional trauma in Southern Oregon. The center also offers a support group for parents and family members of people suffering from addiction.

Most services are provided for free thanks to support from the community, including people who’ve recovered from addiction and want to help those who are still struggling, Gould said.

Throughout the pandemic, the ROC Recovery Center kept its doors open. It provides in-person services with social distancing and masks, and has also broadened out to offer video meetings.

After a March lull, Gould said the center was inundated in April, May and June with people needing help.

“Isolation is not good for people in recovery,” he said. “We need that bonding effect.”

For more information about the center and future events, visit rocrecoverycenter.org.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or valdous@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @VickieAldous.

file photoMedford police Cpl. Joshua Schilder talks with people who have beat addiction during a softball practice before the 2019 Recovery Festival.