NUTLEY, NJ – More than 220 participants joined the Rubber Ducky Organization and Krank Systems Gym for their first-ever Rubber Ducky 5K Run on Sunday morning, April 7 with a course running through Nutley and Belleville.
The run was a community effort organized by Krank owner and Belleville native Peter Isip to help raise awareness for addiction and mental health awareness.
“The event exceeded our expectations,” Isip told TAP. “We love that the community got behind this cause because it’s a subject that needs to be brought up – everyone avoids it or doesn’t have the resources of what to do when they need help.”
The 5K run/walk honored those lost to addiction or suicide, and help facilitate tough conversations, show support for those currently struggling or in recovery, and help to destigmatize addiction and mental illnesses in our local community.
There were interactive checkpoints along the way, with the run ending back at Krank. Proceeds will help to fund local prevention, educational and treatment programs.
“This run means more to me that people think,” Isip said. “I have already lost three wrestlers to drugs but also many friends and I’m sick of watching people leave us so early.”
Matty D's Rubber Ducky Organization, a non-profit corporation based in Belleville, aims to combat the drug addiction epidemic in the community by educating the public about addiction and its co-disorders and prevention methods, lifting the stigma that those struggling with addiction face in our society, and encouraging them to utilize resources and seek treatments.
“I also battle depression anxiety and the wonderful challenges that come with that,” said Isip. “Addiction and mental issues are rough, and people don’t think they have anywhere to go. If they need someone, I’ll be that person because I’d rather they talk to me than nobody.”
Residents got together to form the organization after suffering losses of family and friends due to addiction. Deciding to turn negative circumstances into something positive for the community was the main factor in the organizations formation.
Founded by the DeFrance family in loving memory of their late son and brother Matthew, he collected rubber ducks, hence the name of the organization name.
Matt DeFrance was only 24 years old when he passed away in May 2015.
The addiction and opioid epidemic are a public health crisis in our country, where 115 people die every day from an opioid overdose. As of June 2018, there were already 167 overdose deaths in Essex County for 2018, which is the highest in any New Jersey County.
The DeFrance family’s hope is to ultimately keep other families from experiencing the pain and heartache they’ve endured.