It was still cold outside when the first runner came across the finish line at the early-morning 5K run at Lake Thoreau on Saturday, Nov. 16. But twin bonfires were already burning, and hot chocolate and instant coffee were available.
And the bicycles were ready to go.
This was the second annual Road to Recovery event, held to raise money for Jeffrey’s Fund, which was established to assist local people who otherwise can’t afford to enter addiction recovery programs. The fund is administered by the PineBelt Foundation.
Moore’s Bike Shop provided about 20 bicycles for anybody who came for the ride, which began at the Lake Thoreau Environmental Center and went five miles or so down the Longleaf Trace, making it a 10-mile round trip.
Last year, “the 5K foot race was the main funding event, along with local individuals who sponsored the event,” said James Moore, owner of the bicycle shop. “About 25 racers participated, and about $5,000 was raised.”
This year, the focus was more on people who are in local addiction recovery programs.
“I had the fun of leading four group bicycle rides where we logged over 500 miles, collectively,” Moore said.
He drove a golf cart equipped to carry anyone who couldn’t keep up, or who wanted to be along for the ride but knew they couldn’t ride a bicycle. One person had broken his foot after signing up for the ride. He told me he really didn’t want to miss out altogether, so he rode the golf cart, with his foot in a cast.
“The bike rides had two points of interest,” Moore said. “The first stop was at mile marker 10 [on the Longleaf Trace] which is a memorial to our son, Jeffrey, who died from an accidental overdose in 2015. I briefly shared memories of Jeffrey's life at this stop, primarily talking about the good times we spent together in the Trace.”
The second stop, the “turn-around spot, was at Beaver Lake, where we refueled on Snickers” and fed day-old bagels to the turtles, he said.
“I wanted to turn the focus more to the guests in local recovery programs and give them a chance to actually ride on the Trace. Most of the riders have been on one or more of the rides I lead from my shop.”
Every week, clients at Hattiesburg’s in-patient recovery centers take part in group rides Moore sponsors in honor of his son.
“It’s been shown that finding a physical activity into which one can put their new-found time and energy significantly reduces the occurrence of relapse,” he said.
Moore is trying to expose people in recovery from addiction “to an activity they may use following discharge, to fill the down-time they sometimes experience” when they are no longer bound to addiction-related activities.
Anyone wishing to support the cost of these activities can contribute directly to Jeffrey’s Fund at the PineBelt Foundation’s Web site: www.pinebeltfoundation.org/give