ONTARIO — Hundreds of people gathered in Lions Park in Ontario Thursday evening to celebrate those have been through recovery from addiction, those who are going through recovery and to encourage people dealing with addictions to get into treatment.

A number of social agencies had booths set up around the park to provide information about the services they provide.

One of the annual features of Hands Around the Park is to mark how much accumulative time there is among the participants for being in sobriety — that is being off drugs and/or alcohol. It was announced that the total time for those who reported in during the event was more than 400 years.

One of the people who attended, and spoke was Rudy Espino, of Fruitland, who has been in recovery for more than 30 years. He shared that it is important that people feel they have value, to his parents and to the people around him, becoming an overachiever to gain acceptance.

Espino said his drinking and drug use began in college as a way to be accepted by his peers.

Finally having seen his addiction for what it was, Espino said he turned to prayer, among other things, and surrendered himself to God. He also started going to AA meetings, he said.

“A person needs to feel whole inside,” Espino said.

“You don’t have to clean up before getting treatment,” he told the audience.

Espino issued caution that just because one addiction has been addressed does not prevent it from happening in another area.

“Addiction will work for another corner,” he said.

David Jacobus, who has been in recovery for 14 years, said what marked the change in him is that he is less selfish and more giving to others.

Honored this year was Nelacey Porter, with the Dr. Larry Stoune Memorial Award, Jane Padgett, the Judge Terry Thompson Memorial Award, for her service to the community, and Jacobus and Roy Lara, for their work in recovery community.

In a previous article, Porter said he started his road to recovery in 2013, traveling from Portland to Ontario to get inpatient treatment at Lifeways Recovery Center.

After graduating from Lifeways’ in patient program, Porter checked himself into the outpatient program in order to finally receive his seeing eye dog, Torrence, from Guide Dogs for the Blind in February of 2018.

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