Fort Mill's Joe Davis run for substance abuse exceeds expectations

scetrone@heraldonline.comJanuary 5, 2013 

— When Melissa Davis Boyd worked up the nerve to go public with her brother’s fatal fight with drug addiction, she decided to organize a run that would hopefully draw enough people to spark a frank discussion about substance abuse.

Davis Boyd knew the issue touches roughly half the American population, but even she was stunned by the crowd that showed up for the first Joe Davis Memorial Resolution Run on Saturday.

“My optimistic, crazy number was 200 people,” she said.

The 9 a.m. 5K at Walter Elisha Park in Fort Mill in frosty weather drew more than 500 people.

“We ran out of shirts,” Boyd said. “I’m just overwhelmed. I’m trying not to get emotional, but it’s hard.”

It was an unusually high turnout for a first time run, said Sean Gorman, a race director with Start2Finish, a Charlotte event management company that ran the run.

“You’re lucky if you get 200 people,” Gorman said. “This is incredible.”

Melissa’s younger brother Joe died of a heroin overdose in 2009. He was 28. He had struggled with addiction since he started drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana at 13.

Though family interventions and a stay at a treatment facility in Utah helped, Joe Davis spent the rest of his life in a cycle of recovery and relapse.

His family struggled privately and grieved for years.

But Davis Boyd, her brother Chris and their mother Kristen Davis Rhyne decided to share their story. They want to spotlight the disease of addiction, honor Joe and encourage people to talk openly about it.

Too many people view addiction as simply the result of bad choices or character flaws instead of a disease that requires treatment, they said.

“The first couple years it was hard for us to talk about it,” Davis Boyd said. “So many people don’t want to talk about it, because they don’t want the negative criticism. It doesn’t have to be that way.”

Proceeds from Saturday’s run will go to Keystone Substance Abuse Services in Rock Hill, which offers a variety of treatment options.

The money will pay for patients who can’t afford treatment, Keystone Executive Director Janet Martini said.

Substance abuse experts say one in 10 people struggle with addiction.

That means roughly half the American population knows an addict through family, friends or work, Martini said.

Since word got out about her brother’s story, Davis Boyd said she’s received phone calls and emails from people thanking her for speaking up. Many told stories of loved ones with similar struggles. Some shared their own stories of recovery.

Some said, ‘I saw (addiction) in a different light until I heard this story.’”

Shawn Cetrone 803-329-4072

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