#SydneyWorthley #HopeRocksFestival #MentalHealth #MichaelHallisey #SpotlightNews
SAUGERTIES — The second annual Hope Rocks Festival is planned for Aug. 18 and 19 , at the Cantine Veteran’s Memorial Complex in Saugerties.
The free, two-day festival uses music, crafts, sports and other activities to persuade those suffering from addiction and depression to attend. The common threads that help bridge the gap between people are tools to help show those who feel alone that they are not.
Spurred on by 3,400 attendees at the 2017 inaugural Hope Rocks Festival, this year’s festival continues to offer a weekend of hope to those suffering with addiction, depression and suicide. New sponsors Ulster Savings Bank and Sunshine Orthodontics for the 2018 festival join Hope Rocks founding sponsors: the Sawyer Automotive Foundation, Raising Your Awareness about Narcotics and American Foundation.
“I really love the message of this festival,” said Sydney Worthley. Since dropping her debut album, “Strong” last September, fans have approached the musician to share their stories of depression and loss. Worthley wrote the title track while coping with the death of both her grandmothers. “It hits close to home. … Even with the people who can’t be there, we’re sharing the same message: we’re trying to illuminate the darkness of addiction and depression.”
Free and open to all, Hope Rocks offers onsite counseling, speakers presenting their personal addiction experiences and a myriad of activities, including: approximately 30 live musical performances across multiple stages; a motorcade; softball; volleyball; basketball; tennis; pickleball; human foosball; art exhibition; and, crafters. New to the 2018 festival is a walk- and bike-a-thon, children’s area, petting zoo and T-shirt design contest.
“The problem of addiction and suicide continues to grow—and so does the need for Hope Rocks,” said festival founder Joseph Defino, a Saugerties resident and elementary school teacher. “In fact, we need to further educate, treat and recognize the loss of hope endemic to addiction.”
Defino added that according to the World Health Organization, 20 million suicides are attempted annually and death from overdose caused more than 55,000 deaths in 2016. In a recent report by the Center for Disease Control, opioid related emergency visits to hospitals has increased by 30 percent from July 2016 to Sept. 2017.
“It can affect anyone,” said Worthley. “With me, it was the death of my two grandmothers. I think that it was always there. I think that I used the activities that I’m doing now — music definitely picked up after that happened — to help myself through it. It wasn’t a way to get it off my mind. It was more of a way to cope with it. It was my form of therapy.”
Defino founded Hope Rocks after witnessing in less than four years, 13 former student deaths stemming from addiction and despair.
“So many are struggling with this monster,” he said. “We have children in our schools whose parents are battling this or have died, as a result. Hope Rocks aims to change this epidemic of despair by offering an environment of acceptance and understanding while providing access to support and services. It’s time to end this hopelessness.”
For more information, visit Hope Rocks’ Facebook and Instagram pages or go to hoperocksny.com.
Michael Hallisey is managing editor of Spotlight Newspapers.