Participants in this year’s The Family Restored Memorial Race, seen here in 2019, will connect online to honor individuals lost to addiction and to raise money for those seeking treatment. Courtesy / The Family Restored

PORTLAND — The pandemic has forced The Family Restored to go virtual with its biggest annual fundraiser, the Memorial Race.

The Portland-based organization provides financial aid for those seeking addiction treatment and offers support groups for their families. The support groups have gone virtual since the coronavirus outbreak and so, too, has the Memorial Race.

Instead of the usual 5K road race to honor those who have died from their addictions and to raise money to support those in recovery, The Family Restored is encouraging people to raise money by running, walking or cycling the 3.1 miles between Oct. 25 and 31.

Last year the event raised $140,000. This year’s goal is $75,000. Participants will be able to post photos and memories on the event’s Facebook page.

The pandemic has had a big impact on those seeking recovery, even though the recovery community has responded well to the virtual adjustment, according to The Family Restored Executive Director Eric Girard.

That makes the Memorial Race particularly important this year, Girard said.

“The greatest impact we have seen is increased isolation, people out of work and distanced from their families. We believe successful recovery comes from connecting with others. COVID has forced us to do the opposite of that,” Girard said.

According to data from the University of Maine’s Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center, 132 deaths in Maine were caused by drugs in the second quarter of 2020 (April to June), marking a 4% increase over the first quarter of 2020.

The Attorney General’s Office reports the the 258 deaths caused by drugs in the first six months of 2020 represent a 27% increase over the last two quarters of 2019.

“It is clear from the data that the increase in deaths from the opioid epidemic can be partially attributed to the increased isolation of living through the pandemic,” Attorney General Aaron M. Frey said. “The data in this report confirms that the crisis has continued to intensify nationally. It is another reminder that our communities are stronger when we are connected with one another and pro-actively make efforts to help our neighbors. We have to ensure that Mainers who are struggling with substance use disorder are connected with the resources they need to protect them and help them advance in recovery.”

Since 2014, The Family Restored  has done just that, providing $600,000 in treatment scholarships to close to 500 people in need throughout New England. Additionally, more than 125 families attend the organization’s weekly support sessions in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont.

“What is unique about our support groups … is all our groups are facilitated by people who are in recovery who share our personal experiences and our stories to educate and guide families through navigating what they are going through with their loved one, ” Girard said.

South Portland resident Julie Gregory credits The Family Restored for her nearly three years of sobriety.

“I was a scholarship recipient and The Family Restored paid for my treatment, which was something I just couldn’t afford at that time,” she said. “It set me up to have a different experience in recovery. I have tried many times. I went to a lot of state treatment facilities, which were all that I could pay for. This gave me an opportunity to do something different.”

She attended a 12-step program in New Hampshire and then stayed at a sober house for women in Portland before moving to South Portland.

“They helped me financially, certainly, but the community it built up around me was what got me through my recovery,” she said.

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