Cornerstone of Recovery celebrates 24th Annual Alumni Reunion
By Wes Wade | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
There’s a saying in Narcotics and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings — keep coming back. Often times its said at the end of a meeting, though sometimes people utter it as encouragement to someone who has just shared their recent trials, tribulations and even triumphs.
On Saturday, that popular saying was evident in simply the number of people gathered at Cornerstone of Recovery on Alcoa Highway during the center’s 24th Annual Alumni Reunion.
The reunions have become grand, weekend-long events, drawing some 600 people for the Saturday celebrations which include a picnic, musical entertainment, a dunking booth, inflatables for the kids and even a cake walk.
Dan Caldwell, president and CEO of Cornerstone of Recovery, said about 350 people came out to partake in Friday night’s activities, which included a speaker meeting, silent auction and ice cream social. And, of course, what Friday night gathering would be complete without a little karaoke? So they had the ol’e jukebox sing-alongs geared up as well.
Julie Hamlin, Cornerstone of Recovery’s extended care director, said annual reunions have been a tradition ever since the facility opened in 1989. But they were much smaller back then. It was a two-day event which went from Friday to Saturday and they would hold a picnic at a park.
And while the reunions grew to much larger, three day events in the mid-1990s, they didn’t have a facility to hold them at until they acquired the building they now have on Alcoa Highway in 2005.
“As we obtained this facility we moved it here to this property and it became an all-day event — Friday, Saturday and Sunday,” Hamlin said.
Chef Paul Tucker, who came in from South Carolina, provided Saturday’s gigantic table of food consisting of barbecue pork, hot wings, hot dogs, chili, macaroni salad and baked beans. Brownies and snow cones were also available for those with a sweet tooth.
Courtney Ferrell, an alumnus who is coming up on her third year of sobriety, spent Saturday volunteering for her third Cornerstone reunion. Ferrell, who has also worked as a staff member for two years, is an extended care counselor who guides morning intensive outpatient groups. She said being a part of the Cornerstone family — and having the opportunity to give back to others that which she was so freely given — is a major blessing. She said nothing beats seeing patients come back with jobs, stable lives and the ability to achieve their dreams.
“It’s the most beautiful thing,” Ferrell said. “I feel honored to have a part in that; I really do.”
Ferrell added that the reunions are also a way for new patients at Cornerstone to meet and fellowship with alumni who can help lead them on their way to recovery.
“It does show them that this is possible,” Ferrell said. “This is not impossible. You can face the odds and do these things. It’s the newcomer getting help and the old timer (alumni) giving back what she’s so been freely given.”
Fellow alumnus and reunion volunteer Jason Leinart, who actually designed the logo on the T-shirts volunteers were wearing for Saturday’s reunion, agreed.
“I think it’s a good thing for newcomers and old timers alike,” Leinart said. Because newcomers are many times loners. They realize they’re not alone, realize they’re not the only ones that have these problems. They see these other people and say ‘Hey, look they’re happy.’”
Alumnus and reunion volunteer Robbie McDaniel mentioned that she was in care group with another Cornerstone of Recovery alumnus from Los Angeles, Calif., that traveled all the way from Los Angeles just for the reunion. Although she had already hit her one-year sobriety point during the summer, she wanted to wait to pick up her one-year clean chip until she arrived at the reunion. And in addition to picking up her first-year sobriety chip, she also took home the “Any Length” award for being the alumni who traveled the farthest for the reunion — more than 2,000 miles.
“She just picked up a year clean this summer,” McDaniel said. “The fact she was willing to come back and support Cornerstone of Recovery, (something) that changed her life, it’s not just locals. We have people from out of state come and support (us), which means a lot.
The reunion will continue Sunday with bowling and golf tournaments as well as a motorcycle ride. Proceeds from those events will go to two separate non-profits — one which funds loans for halfway house residents and the other which provides prevention and assistance efforts for young adults at risk of drug overdose and abuse.