Runners start the 10K run at the sixth annual Be The Light 5K Night Run/Walk event held at West Creek Park in Valencia on Saturday, September 21, 2019. Dan Watson/The Signal

‘Be The Light’ for youths in recovery

As the sun began to set, hundreds of runners and walkers decked out in with colorful lights and glow bands gathered for the sixth annual Be The Light Night Run/Walk at West Creek Park Saturday.

Each year, this unique, night-time fundraiser supports A Light of Hope, a nonprofit dedicated to helping youth and young adults battling substance abuse, in their efforts to “bring light into the darkness of addiction,” according to Tim Traurig, the organization’s co-founder.

“We’ve been out here for 10 years, and (the organization) came out of our own family experience,” Traurig said. “We have three daughters, two of which were in multiple rehabs for drug and alcohol addiction, and we didn’t have anything like this to support us. So, we built what we wish we could have had as a family and provide that for other families.”

Runners and walkers participate in the 10K at the sixth annual Be The Light 5K Night Run/Walk event held at West Creek Park in Valencia on Saturday, September 21, 2019. Dan Watson/The Signal

The nonprofit not only offers support groups for youth, but also for parents to give them the tools to understand what works and what doesn’t when dealing with those kinds of issues. In addition, youth are given the opportunity to participate in free activities and events each weekend to connect with their peers, Traurig added.

“It’s the cornerstone of our recovery and our success,” he said. “Not only do the young people get to connect with like-minded individuals with similar circumstances, but so do the parents … We teach our parents how to love, encourage and support them in the midst of the chaos.”

Traurig believes having parent facilitators, young adult leaders and staff who have been in similar situations before is key to this success.

Runners Carie Zorlu, left, and Olgun Zorlu put on their numbers before the start the 10 K run at the sixth annual Be The Light 5K Night Run/Walk event held at West Creek Park in Valencia on Saturday, September 21, 2019. Dan Watson/The Signal

“There is no doubt that the effects of helping young people and families recover is being able to talk to people who relate to them and really understand what it’s like,” he said. “A lot of people think the opposite of addiction is sobriety, but the opposite of addiction is connection — it’s the one thing that’s missing.”

Traurig’s wife and co-founder, Susan Traurig, agrees, and said, “It absolutely changes lives. Not just the young people that come … but also with the parents coming, it changes the whole family dynamic — the whole family gets better.”

Metals for the participants for the sixth annual Be The Light 5K Night Run/Walk event held at West Creek Park in Valencia on Saturday, September 21, 2019. Dan Watson/The Signal

This is the nonprofit’s biggest fundraiser of the year and helps to fund all of the supportive services offered, all of which are free to families.

“We are strictly volunteer and donation-based, so this is why we can do what we do,” Susan said.

When staff member Chimy Ikonte first came to A Light of Hope, he was very insecure, and couldn’t hold a conversation — “I didn’t really know what I wanted in life.”

Participants check for their names on the banner at the sixth annual Be The Light 5K Night Run/Walk event held at West Creek Park in Valencia on Saturday, September 21, 2019. Dan Watson/The Signal

“I remember walking into the room, and having people greet me with a smile on their face and a handshake, asking what brought me there,” he said. “The immediate love — it was something I had never experienced before outside of my family. To have people genuinely care for me and how I’m doing, that was something that I really took to heart.”

Now in a leadership position, Ikonte said he tries to pay it forward.

“I continue to share that light with people who are struggling, and to have a small part in seeing that is such a blessing,” he added.

Participant Mark Dannerth pins on his number for the 10K at the sixth annual Be The Light 5K Night Run/Walk event held at West Creek Park in Valencia on Saturday, September 21, 2019. Dan Watson/The Signal

Participants could take part in the 10K or 5K which follows the San Francisquito Creek Trail, and were given a finisher medal and certificate upon completion with awards for the top three finishers.

While Susan Campbell enjoys running, and frequently participates in local 10Ks throughout the year, including the Santa Clarita Marathon and Independence Day Classic, this particular event really hits home for her.

“My nephew was affected by substance abuse when he was just a teenager,” Campbell said. “He didn’t have the kind of resources offered now through organizations like this one, so I think it’s so very important to support this for others like him who are struggling.”

For more information about A Light of Hope, visit alightofhopescv.org.

Runners start the 10K run at the sixth annual Be The Light 5K Night Run/Walk event held at West Creek Park in Valencia on Saturday, September 21, 2019. Dan Watson/The Signal

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