Jun. 13—ANDERSON — Patty DeLong and Christa Welty went to Dickmann Town Center Saturday hoping to bring the word of Jesus Christ to visitors there.
They never anticipated running into the crowd that gathered for the fourth annual Walk for Hope, many of whom shared a testimony of how Christ saved them and some who still needed to be introduced to how God's promises could help them overcome addiction.
"We just ran into this event," DeLong said. "Every opportunity we are given to allow God's light and glory to shine through is a blessing."
They were among dozens of people who came downtown to participate in the family-friendly event that included music by the Martha Green Project, free popcorn from the Madison County Health Department and a dunk tank for the kids.
In addition to the Anderson event, a Walk for Hope event was offered a couple of weeks ago in Elwood.
DeLong said it was the first time she and Welty had gone out as a team to spread the word of God, and she was sure it was divine providence. She said she had prayed the Lord would lead her to people who needed to hear her message.
"Definitely, it's the Holy Spirit leading us," she said. "This is a very positive event. Anything promoting the health of people in Indiana is wonderful. We trust we'll hear some positive results from this event."
Welty said spending time handing out water in the sweltering heat and sharing her beliefs was a personal challenge she had set for herself.
"I took a class, and challenged myself to get out of myself and give hope through Christ," the Anderson University librarian said.
Ryan Traub, founder and organizer of the Walk for Hope, said he was pleased by the turnout after a much smaller event last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Unlike other addiction awareness events, he said, the Walk for Hope is focused more on the positivity and possibility of recovery more than intervention. But the walk, he added, also was going to lead participants to people congregating downtown who may be in need of services.
"I know a lot of people suffering from addiction will be out and about, too," he said. "But everybody sees addiction in the streets, and nobody shows the recovery part of it. This shows hope is possible and shows the recovering addict."
Stephenie Grimes, administrator for the Madison County Health Department, said the Walk for Hope was an opportunity for her agency to put to use its newly acquired mobile clinic. She said the clinic long had been a goal of the department but appeared to be out of reach financially until COVID Cares money arrived from the federal government.
The health department was one of several organizations, including Community and Ascension St. Vincent hospitals, Bridges of Hope and House of Hope that were on hand to provide addiction recovery information.
In addition to providing addiction screening and resource information, Grimes said, the mobile facility acquired three weeks ago was used to check blood pressure, blood sugar and test for Hepatitis C, a common illness among drug users who share needles.
Grimes said the health department has supported the Walk for Hope since the beginning.
"But now we're here supporting and offering some services," she said.
The health department helps those seeking assistance with recovery through its peer coaches and by making referrals to other agencies, Grimes said.
"We like to help as much as we can, walk with them and hold their hands as long as they need," she said.
Follow Rebecca R. Bibbs on Twitter at @RebeccaB_THB, or call 765-640-4883.