National Addictions Awareness Week will be marked locally next week with a slew of activities, including an “Awareness Walk” from Fort Frances to Couchiching First Nation on Monday.
The walk will start at 9 a.m. at 601 King’s Highway (across from West End Motors) and proceed east to the Fort Frances Public Library Technology Centre, where participants will catch a bus to the multi-use facility at Couchiching.
Everyone is welcome to join in, whether they have been affected by addictions personally or simply are supportive of choosing a healthy lifestyle.
Invitations have been sent out to Riverside Health Care Facilities, Inc., the United Native Friendship Centre, Sunset Country Métis, Rainy River District Victim Services Program, and the 10 area First Nations, among others.
“I think the walk is important,” said Albert Calder of the Native Alcohol and Drug Abuse Program (NADAP), noting participating in the “awareness walk” literally could be a first step for an individual wanting to get off substance abuse and on the path to living the good life.
“The first walk that we had, there were people that were using drugs that were walking,” he added.
“Some people want to get off the drugs but they don’t know how. So this gives them a start.”
Running Nov. 18-24, the week is meant to promote an addictions-free lifestyle as well as make people aware of the negative impact of addictions on both families and communities while encouraging communities and families to come together in a positive way.
Activities have been planned by the Couchiching Treatment and Support Services Centre, Fort Frances Tribal Area Health Services Counselling Unit, NADAP, and the United Native Friendship Centre’s Aboriginal Alcohol and Drug Program.
In addition to the walk, opening ceremonies to kick off the week will be held at the Couchiching multi-use facility starting at 9:30 a.m.
The agenda includes the drum group, a pipe ceremony, smudge, and prayer, as well as opening and welcoming remarks.
This will be followed by a community walk around Couchiching starting at the multi-use facility.
That will be followed by a presentation by Treaty #3 Police regarding the dangers of drinking and driving, then one by recovery speaker Langford Ogemah of Kenora, and then lunch.
The FFTAHS also will have an information booth set up at the multi-use facility.
Several activities also are planned Tuesday (Nov. 20) at the Couchiching multi-use facility.
A video entitled “Truth about Drugs” will be shown at 10 a.m., followed by a presentation at 11 a.m. by the Youth Leadership Group about love, sex addiction, and building healthy relationships.
FFTAHS community support worker Justin Boshey then will offer a presentation on “Sweat Lodge Teachings.”
Also Tuesday, the UNFC will host a trio of presenters at its main building (516 Portage Ave.)
At 10 a.m., the OPP canine unit will make a presentation, followed by Treaty #3 Police drug recognition officers at 1 p.m.
Then at 2 p.m., FFTAHS crisis/mental health counsellors will be at the UNFC building to speak about opiates and their effects.
On Wednesday (Nov. 21), a presentation on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is planned for noon at the Couchiching toy lending library.
Then starting at 1 p.m., the FFTAHS will offer a sweat lodge ceremony at 601 King’s Highway (participants are asked to bring tobacco and a towel; women must bring skirts).
On Wednesday evening, a UNFC open mic night is slated at the Métis Hall in Fort Frances (714 Armit Ave.)
Running from 6:30-9 p.m., the evening is expected to feature the Late Night Jammers, Larissa and Jess Desrosiers, Dave Ashworth, and Ericka Tymkin, but any musicians who attend and want to perform are welcome to take the stage.
There also will be a presentation by mental health worker James Woods.
This event is free to attend but the public is urged to bring along non-perishable food items, which will be split between the UNFC and Sunset Country Métis food banks.
On Thursday (Nov. 22), a community breakfast is planned from 8-10 a.m. at the Couchiching Treatment and Support Services building (the former Treaty #3 Police station).
This will be followed at 1 p.m. with a pre-treatment presentation by the Dilico Treatment Centre at the Couchiching multi-use facility (to inform people about how to prepare for addictions treatment).
And on Friday (Nov. 23), there will be an open speaker meeting at the Couchiching Treatment and Support Services building starting at noon.
This will be followed by closing ceremonies at 2 p.m.
As part of the week, organizers also are holding a poster contest for anyone up to the age of 25, with area businesses having donated gift certificates as prizes.
The posters will be put up at local businesses.
In related news, Rainy River First Nations will host a sobriety walk this Sunday (Nov. 18) starting at the community gymnasium at 1 p.m.
Soup, sandwiches, and refreshments will follow, along with a community 4-on-4 volleyball tournament (two girls/two guys).
Then on Tuesday, there will be a community potluck dinner at Rainy River First Nations, along with presentations and entertainment.