Fairbanks Circle of Hope Dinner celebrates recovery, raises funds for patient assistance

More than 500 individuals came together to celebrate recovery from addiction and raise over $170,000 at the 16th annual Fairbanks Circle of Hope Dinner April 27 at the Indianapolis Marriott Downtown.

“This was the most successful Circle of Hope Dinner we’ve had in its 16 years,” said Faraz Abbasi, chair of the Fairbanks Board of Directors. “We even surpassed our fundraising goal. Thank you to everyone who donated to support the programs and services at Fairbanks, La Verna Lodge and Hope Academy.”

Jim Irsay and the Indianapolis Colts were the premier sponsors for the Fairbanks Circle of Hope Dinner again this year. They matched all donations Fairbanks received at the dinner up to $10,000. President and CEO Barb Elliott noted that last year Fairbanks provided more than 10 percent of its operating revenue in patient assistance. But more can, and should, be done.

“There are literally thousands of individuals in this community who go without treatment because they lack resources, are underinsured or have no insurance at all,” Elliott said. “Last year Fairbanks touched the lives of more than 20,000 people – those struggling with addiction, their families and our community through recovery services, community outreach and education. But those are just a fraction of our friends, family and neighbors who need our help. One in 10 Americans suffers from substance use disorders, but only 10 percent get the services they need.

“Together, we can do more.”

The Fairbanks Circle of Hope Dinner also raises awareness about alcohol and drug addiction while honoring an individual or organization for outstanding contributions related to research, education or treatment of drug and alcohol abuse and addiction.

Former Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller was honored as the 2017 Richard M. Fairbanks Circle of Hope Award recipient. As attorney general he created and co-chaired the Indiana Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Task Force, which included medical and law enforcement professionals from around the state, to address the burgeoning prescription drug abuse problem. Their collaboration led to legislative initiatives like changing prescribing practices in the medical community; creating a nonprofit to distribute Narcan, a medicine that blocks the effects of opioids and reverses overdoses, to police and emergency responders and train them in its use; and the creation of the Bitter Pill education initiative.

This year’s keynote speaker was Daniel Rodriguez, often called the “Singing Policeman” and “America’s Tenor.” The Brooklyn-born, now-retired New York Police Department officer – who is in long-term recovery from substance abuse – was near Ground Zero on the morning of 9/11 and nearly lost his life rescuing others from the terrorist attack. In the immediate aftermath, he used his opera training to uplift the country with stirring renditions of “God Bless America” at numerous memorial events and on television.

The event also featured three “voices of recovery,” individuals who struggled with substance abuse and are now living in long-term recovery with help from Fairbanks and Hope Academy, the recovery high school supported by Fairbanks.

State Sen. Jim Merritt served as honorary chair and Angela Cain, formerly of WTHR-Channel 13, reprised her role as host of ceremonies. Other noted guests included State Reps. Steve Davisson and Carey Hamilton, the Honorable Gail Bardach and the Honorable Diana Burleson and Dr. Joan Duwve, chief medical officer for the Indiana State Department of Health.