By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Running for addiction awareness

If you go ...

• What: F.A.I.T.H. 5K run/2-mile walk

• When: Saturday, registration and packet pickup starts at 7:30 a.m., run/walk starts at 9 a.m.

• Where: Monroe Clinic, 515 22nd Ave.

• More information: or 608-328-2832.

MONROE - When Jackie Kundert watched as her 19-year-old son was taken to prison for acts committed while under the influence of abused substances, she witnessed how addiction can take a toll on a family. However, she has designated the event in her life as a windfall compared to other parents who have had children hooked on drugs or alcohol.

"I consider myself one of the lucky ones," Kundert said. "He is currently incarcerated because of the addiction, what the addiction made him do. I'm happy he has a second chance at life. A lot of times, they don't live."

A friend, Mary Friedrichs, was one of the not-so-lucky; she buried her son at the age of 25 after he died from a heroin overdose. As Kundert recalled attending the wake of Friedrichs' son, she emphasized the luck she felt at knowing her son is safe.

"I remember going to her son's visitation, and she was living my nightmare, basically," Kundert said. "So when I thought about it, I knew she would be the perfect person to join forces to try to make a difference in Green County."

Motivated by those personal experiences, Kundert decided to begin an organization called Fighting Addiction: It Takes Help, or F.A.I.T.H. The group, made up of Kundert, her husband and Friedrichs, has only been in operation since June 1 but has organized events in order to educate others about the problem of drug and alcohol addiction in Green County. F.A.I.T.H. is dedicated to increasing discussion about the problem of substance addiction and is hoping to make an impact on young lives in order to steer the decisions of youth throughout Green County toward the positive.

Research into the numbers affected by addiction in the county was eye-opening for Kundert, who said it was a shock to see the change of a map layout of Green County when the number of those addicted to heroin was applied. According to a report released by the Wisconsin State Council on Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse in 2012, "between 2006 and 2011, Wisconsin experienced a 350 percent increase in heroin samples submitted." The trend of beginning with prescription painkillers, which was supported by recent surveys conducted by the SCAODA, is one Kundert has become familiar with through her son's experiences.

"I would love to see rates go down in Green County," Kundert said of substance abuse. "If we can get into the heart and the mind of one kid every time we give a presentation about not making the decision to do drugs, even prescription medications, (I'm) hoping we can get them to make better choices. I also want people to know they're not alone. We need to talk about it."

Though only in operation for close to three months, the organization has already offered their help to a family whose son was struggling with addiction. The immediate need was quickly recognized and was a positive experience for Kundert and her group.

"Trying to help them and get them to the right places ... it felt so right," Kundert said. "Just to be a part of helping someone through that when they have nothing else to grasp on to; it felt good."

Efforts to educate have included reaching out to every middle school in the county, and even some in neighboring ones, to conduct presentations about their firsthand experiences. A representative from the Green County Sheriff's Office has signed on to help them speak to any school which allows them to tell their stories. They have also enlisted the help of a detective from the Madison Police Department to aid in a public presentation to educate adults on signs that may indicate possible problems.

Working within local communities, the group of three has been reaching out via email to different organizations, utilizing connections through local businesses and emphasizing their methods over social media.

They have also put together a fundraiser for Saturday, one that is a project of personal importance to Kundert, who said she has utilized running - an activity she has always enjoyed - as a "coping mechanism" for dealing with the issues during and after her son was in trouble with the law. F.A.I.T.H.. With the sponsorship of Green County Healthy Community Coalition, F.A.I.T.H. will hold its first 5K Run/2-Mile Walk and has already drawn in more than 260 participants.

Being a registered nurse at the Monroe Clinic gave Kundert the connections needed to host the start and finish of the run/walk at the building. Every cent earned from the event has been promised to the Substance Abuse Program of Green County Human Services. The Alcohol and Other Substance Abuse department serves a variety of purposes, but has the main mission to help residents in the county break a dependency from chemical substances and better their lives through independence and self-awareness.

Kundert expressed her happiness at the large number of registrants and attributed the healthy response to the need for people to address the issue of substance abuse.

"We need to decrease the stigma of addiction, and we need to talk about it," Kundert said. "A lot of people don't want to talk about this issue and are afraid to be the people to start the conversation. When I first started this, I had people coming up to talk to me on a daily basis. We can all relate and together we're stronger."