A celebration of healing comes to Riverfront Park Friday

The Salem community will come together Friday for a day of support and celebration of those who have recovered from addiction and mental health challenges at the Hands Across the Bridge celebration. 

The event is celebrated statewide in other communities such as Portland and Albany to bring people together to see that they are not alone in their struggles. Since 2015, Salem’s event has been organized by the Recovery Outreach Community Center. 

This year is expected to be the largest yet with a full comeback from Covid-related changes and about 40 different community organizations partnering to provide support. It also will be held in a new location at the Riverfront Park North Meadow and Pavilion.

“The bulk of the work that we do is to help fight the stigma of mental health challenges and addiction,” said ROCC Spokesperson Jill Bird. “People don’t want to talk about them often because they’re afraid of what people will say, and so part of this battle that we fight every year in this event is that we are wanting to get out there and be seen and have people hear that recovery is possible ….You can recover from addiction, you can recover from mental wellness challenges, you can recover from trauma. So it really is to highlight that there is help out there and there are other people going through similar situations.”

One of the most moving and notable moments of the event each year is the memorial walk to the bridge, Bird said. 

For this portion of the event, staff hand out flowers and everyone walks to the bridge and drops their flowers in the water in remembrance of someone lost to mental health challenges or addiction. 

“It’s a pretty moving situation, and it’s just to get the word out there and be visible in the public that like, ‘Hey, we’ve struggled with these things, and we are stronger together in healing,’” Bird said.

The event is family-friendly, and will feature speakers such as local elected officials and people who have recovered, as well as music, food, games and resources from local service providers. Some of the organizations will offer services such as free dental screenings, housing support, and more.

The Hands Across the Bridge event is free to attend and runs from noon to 5 p.m. Friday, with the memorial bridge walk beginning at 4 p.m. 

Contact reporter Jordyn Brown at [email protected].

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Jordyn Brown is an Oregon journalist who formerly worked for the Eugene Register-Guard.