Community Speaks Out hosts fourth sober softball tournament

Groton — Recovery is possible.

That's the theme of Community Speaks Out's fourth annual Christopher Johns Memorial Sober Softball tournament, which will take place from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday at Washington Park.

Ten teams will take to two fields during the daylong, double-elimination softball tournament. Nine of the teams will honor people who lost their lives to overdoses, with the respective honoree's name and age at death printed on their shirts. Members of the 10th team will wear shirts that say, "Recovery is possible."

Though the state Office of the Chief Medical Examiner projects more people will die of overdoses in Connecticut this year, many as a result of the influx of potent fentanyl into the state and nation, members of Community Speaks Out said there is reason to be hopeful. The nonprofit provides assistance to people in recovery and their families and holds a monthly support group meeting.

Ashley Shaw Giordano, who is organizing the tournament for the third time, will celebrate 3½ years in recovery next month. Giordano, 25, just started a full-time job that she loves, and has told her recovery story at several different forums. By "doing the work and staying in the moment," she said she's become more confident and feels less shameful and guilty about the past.

"We're losing people at increasing rates, and we need to make awareness of that, but recovery is possible, and we want to make that's a strong message," she said. "There needs to be some hope. I've said every year that this event is a light in such a dark time. We're just brightening that light this year."

The first tournament, in 2016, was organized by Shaw's friend, Joey Gingerella, whom she had met in recovery. Gingerella, whose struggle with pain pill addiction inspired his parents to start Community Speaks Out, was fatally shot on Dec. 11, 2016.

Gingerella, who loved to play ball, had started the tournament to honor Christopher Johns, who struggled with addiction for years before dying of an overdose on Oct. 2, 2014. Johns' mother, Lisa Cote Johns, also is a founding member of Community Speaks Out.

"It's a sober tournament, and all you have to do is look at them (players in recovery) and know there is hope," Johns said. People who are suffering may feel more hopeful about getting into recovery, she said. It's also amazing, she said, for parents and family members to be able to come forward and say, "Yes, my child is suffering."

"I'm just so happy Joey did this for my son," Johns said.

The tournament normally runs from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., but the hours have been modified this year due to the threat of mosquitoes bearing the virus that causes eastern equine encephalitis, a deadly disease. Along with softball, there will be food trucks and raffle items. The group Today I Matter is bringing its traveling poster display of those who have been lost to addiction.

k.florin@theday.com 

If you go

What: Christopher Johns Memorial Sober Softball Tournament

When: Saturday, Sept. 28, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Where: Washington Park, 155 Meridian St., Groton

joerugg 11:27 AM

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