The inaugural Walk for Recovery along the levee in Gretna was designed to support the city’s quality of life campaign. Locals participated in the Walk for Recovery, creating a very successful event! The two-hour Walk sponsored by G-REDI (Gretna Revitalized Enhanced and Developed, Inc.) was followed with three hours of great entertainment by Da Rockits at RiverShack Gretna. 

Thousands of men and women in our area suffer from drug and mental health addictions with little hope of recovery because they lack the knowledge or resources to get the assistance they need.

The goal of this nonprofit event was to bring addiction awareness to the community while raising money to support local facilities that so capably and compassionately treat individuals who need in-house rehabilitation to recover, regardless of their ability to pay.

“The walk for recovery was a huge success. It was wonderful to see a community come together for the greater good of humanity. We all experience struggles to some degree and it is humbling to realize that addiction knows no boundaries, but, in fact, infiltrates the lives of millions of people across the nation. I was proud to see Gretna do its part to help those battling the disease of addiction,” Mayor Belinda Constant said.

Walk for Recovery will annually memorialize someone who has lost the battle of addiction.

This year’s Walk was in memory of Denim Thibodeaux, the son of Donald “Donnie” and Wendy Himel Thibodeaux. Denim was 39 years-old when his life tragically ended much too early on a bitterly cold day, January 19, 2018. 

Born May 17, 1978 and raised on the Westbank, Denim Michael was the firstborn son in the family. The family was also blessed with his brother, Destin who was 3 years younger. 

“Denim was “Mr. Personality,” everybody loved him,” Wendy said. “He attended school at Arden Cahill and graduated from De La Salle High School.

He was gifted at baseball and played year-round, but he had a struggle with his schoolwork and needed extra resources. He was always well behaved in school, but had dyslexia which created academic issues for him. 

“Denim drank alcohol like most teens did. As happens with some people, from then on, he was addicted. The disease took hold.   

“We did tough love, soft love, everything we could do. Baseball was always his special thing. He was often punished, but never from baseball. He went on to Southeastern for two semesters. We were always worried. For 20 years, every time the phone rang, it was just awful. We worried so much,” she said.

“He had four stays in treatment centers. When the addicts relapse they need to use the tools they learned in rehab. When they get sober, often the bad things that they had done caused them to feel guilty and they would use again,” his dad Donnie said.

In Denim’s freshman year of college, he met the love of his life and they became soulmates. They married in 2003 when he was 25. They bought a house here in Gretna. Denim worked offshore and helped her through college to become a teacher. They had two sons and Denim was a wonderful father. He coached all sports at Mel Ott Park. 

During those years, he used opioids. Sadly as time passed, his wife couldn’t handle any more of his using! There were some attempts to get back together, but fate being what it is, the disease was stronger. As happens with some, he was caught up in the world of addiction with drugs.

On Tuesday, January 16, during a very cold week, Donnie brought Denim a cup of coffee at a construction site on Huey P. Long Avenue. Donnie didn’t realize it would be his last ever visit with him.  

Wendy saw Denim for the last time on Thursday, January 18, on Donnie’s birthday. “I told him how proud I was of him for keeping the job and sounding so good,” she said. “The next day, on that awful day on January 19,

I answered a phone call from a friend of Denim’s who said “We can’t wake Denim up!”

Donnie hurried to the location where Denim was in his car, but the police were already there and wouldn’t allow Donnie to go closer. Denim had told his girlfriend that he had to go to a friend’s to get Suboxone, a drug used to fight off barbiturates. And just like that, Denim, the father of two sons, ages 13 and 11 was gone. The disease had finally won!     

“Denim would be proud and committed to doing anything to help others with this disease. He would have loved the Walk for Recovery. He loved Disneyworld. It was his happy place. He was 39 and could be a kid real quick!” Donnie said. “The idea for this event was that of Crystal, our other son, Destin’s wife who did an excellent job working the Walk.

Donnie and Wendy would like to share their love and appreciation to everyone who volunteered and participated. “We so appreciate the generosity of our sponsors and donors. We believe that through this event, addicted people can get the help they need to live life to the fullest.”    

The torch for Walk for Recovery 2023 has been handed by the Thibodeaux’s to the family of Calvin Kass whose son Mark Kass, will memorialize his son, Rome.

All proceeds for the Walk to Recovery 2022 were divided between Bridge House and Grace House of New Orleans, and Responsibility House in Terrytown to help empower others to take a different path.

Over 250 participants and sponsors helped raise more than $30,000 for the cause and donations are still coming in according to Summer Cook, Gretna  Tourism/Events Coordinator.

If you would like to make a donation to this worthy cause, there are several options for you to do so. Call Summer Cook at 504.363.1552.