GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - The Fifth Third River Bank Run has turned into a new chance at life for a group of men at Guiding Light Mission.
Jay Starkey, of the nonprofit organization In the Image, came up with an idea to ask the recovering addicts -- many of whom were homeless -- if they would be interested in training to run the 10K at the River Bank Run on Saturday.
Some of the men, including Rusty Bowers, found themselves raising their hands.
Bowers developed an addiction to smoking crack while working in the automotive industry, repairing car interiors. He smoked it nearly everyday for 13 years until he got caught stealing from customers, lost his job, and landed in jail.
At one point, Bowers sank so low, he decided suicide was the only way out.
But before he could go through with it, Bowers ran into a friend, a recovering heroin addict, who gave him the number to Guiding Light Mission.
"I found myself dialing the numbers, rather than doing what I was going to do, and it was a miracle," Bowers said.
He has been on the road to recovery ever since, and by running, he has lost nearly 20 pounds, which has allowed him to get off insulin and other diabetes medication.
John Hazebrook is also running in the River Bank Run, and like Bowers, is also a recovering addict.
Hazebrook used to be an auto technician, who spent much of his time buried in his work, and earning various degrees and certifications in the auto field.
However, as a business owner, the 12-hour days took their toll on him, and Hazebrook found himself turning to alcohol to relieve the stress.
Lucky for Hazebrook, a friend stepped in and got him into a recovery center.
"I simply had lost faith in people and completely lost faith in myself and the power of God, or anything out there that could change me, but Guiding Light brought that back," Hazebrook said.
He hopes the River Bank Run will help get him back into the game of life.
Representatives for In the Image and Guiding Light Mission want the River Bank Run to become an annual event for men like Hazebrook and Bowers, to aid in the recovery process for addicts.
Employees at In the Image hope to raise enough money through donations to give 12,000 pairs of running shoes to West Michigan children in need.
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