More than 250 people attended the Second Annual Tuscarawas United Addiction Awareness Rally in the David Barber Civic Center.
"It was phenomenal," said Jodi Salvo, coordinator of the Anti-Drug Coalition of Tuscarawas County. "We had a wonderful turnout, not only from the Newcomerstown area but from all over Tuscarawas County. It was really well received. There was a really wonderful community feel, with people mixing and mingling."
The four-hour event was hosted by the Tuscarawas County Anti-Drug Coalition and the Newcomerstown Community Action Network. The event featured live music, speakers, food, inflatables, face-painting, games and raffle prizes. Several area organizations that provide substance abuse prevention and treatment services shared information about their services and answered questions.
Newcomerstown Mayor Pat Cadle has said the rally offered a positive environment where families can have a great time, as well as gaining a better understanding of addiction and the many services available in Tuscarawas County.
The rally addressed "a serious problem that every community and many families in Ohio are dealing with," Cadle said. "Even if you don't know of any one affected, it still affects you as part of this community."
In 2016, more than 4,000 people in Ohio died from unintentional drug overdoses -- the most in the nation. Ohio is currently en route to topping that total in 2017.
"The rally does not solve the problem," Cadle said. "It is the beginning of addressing the problem. The problem does not just go away because the police arrest someone or someone else overdoses. We have to first be informed citizens and understand what the problems are, how they affect each of us, and then plan out what we can do."
Salvo described the rally as having a "very comfortable" feel for a topic that many people feel is seldom comfortable to talk about.
"I ran out of literature at my booth," Salvo said. "We have a lot of information about prevention and what we can do to protect our children and community. We provided basic information about marijuana, alcohol and prescription drugs. Other booths had information about heroin."
Community agencies and organizations staffed 19 informational booths at the event.
Salvo praised the three speakers:
■ Andrea Dominick of the Tuscarawas County Health Department's Alcohol and Addiction Program spoke about understanding addiction as a disease.
■ Matt Bell of Summit County gave an inspirational message and a story of recovery and hope while speaking about his 15-year struggle with drugs, including heroin, and alcohol.
■ Tommy Miller, senior pastor of Legacy Church in New Philadelphia, spoke about the role of the community. He and his wife Shanda have seen first-hand what love from the community and care did for their addicted and since recovered son.
Salvo said attendees enjoyed free hot dogs and potato chips. The Newcomerstown Emergency Rescue Squad prepared chicken dinners at cost and sold out of them at $6 each. Area Boy Scouts helped with parking.
Music was provided by Bridger Garman of Newcomerstown High School, who played guitar; Roxanne Timberlake, who played guitar, and the Barefoot Worship Band.
About 30 raffle prizes donated by businesses and recreational facilities in the Tuscarawas Valley region encouraging family activities were awarded.
"Our first event was at Tuscora Park in New Philadelphia with about 150 people," Salvo said. "This one had the same wonderful feel with all age groups represented from community members and people going through treatment and recovery."
Plans are to rally again next year.
"We haven't decided where yet, we want to move it around Tuscarawas County to provide awareness to everyone in the county."