Registration is still open and sponsors are still invited to participate in the 2023 Walk for Recovery on Saturday, June 3. The two-hour “Walk” along the levee in Gretna was designed to support the city’s quality of life campaign.
The event offers a fun-filled day, including entertainment from 11 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. by “Chicken on the Bone” at RiverShack Gretna.
Walk for Recovery annually memorializes someone who has lost the battle of addiction. The torch was passed to the family of Rome Ashlin Kass, son of Mark Kass and the late Lana Lawson Kass; brother of Paris, London and Milan Kass; and the grandson of Calvin Kass and the late Mamie Margiotta Kass who raised him.
“When Rome was just six months old, our mother, who had her own issues with addiction, left, so Rome, Paris and I went to live with our paternal grandparents, Calvin and Mamie Kass. Only once, right before our mom died, the three of us talked to her by phone. She did stop to visit one day a few weeks before her death, but Rome and my grandmother were the only ones to see her. He was very happy that he got to see his mom for the first and only time,” London Kass said.
“Since my mom left when Rome was an infant and I was a toddler, I became his protective sister, like a mom. I was always on his side. While I could get on him about things, I didn’t like when other people were beating up on him or hurting him in any way. I always had his back. We all went to Catholic schools on the Westbank. Rome struggled in school with behavioral issues, way before his addiction began. He changed schools and even went to boarding school for a time. As a 12 or 13 year-old, he started on the slippery slope toward drug addiction.
“Rome was really family-oriented, even with the drugs, he loved being around his family. He really liked going to our pawpaw’s camp. He loved being around Kass Brothers, pawpaw’s business. He loved the machinery and wanted to help out there. He loved watching LSU games and the Saints play on Sundays. He enjoyed the years he worked in the oilfields of Texas. His passion was driving big trucks.
“Rome was also into cars and had his own street bike. As little side jobs, he did power washing, trimming shrubbery and detailing cars, which he was especially good at. He was proud when people said he did a good job. He was very organized, his car or room, he liked everything in place.
“He never married or had children, but he had a rescue dog, a white boxer named Angel that he dearly loved. Even when Rome was using drugs and inside for days, Angel was by his side.
“He liked to drive around in his truck in the French Quarter, driving around and listening to music. He drove me crazy, but I loved him so much. Always had his back, miss him so much. Rome had a strong faith in God and often posted quotes about God. He once posted on Facebook that he should have been gone, but thanks to his Higher Power, he was still around!
“By his twenties, Rome was in and out of treatment multiple times and had the misfortune of being in and out of jail as well. After getting into trouble with the law in Mississippi, he was let out of jail, but was court ordered to go to a halfway house,” London said.
While there he was studying for his CDL license so he could join his dad and brother in the trucking business. Unfortunately while in the halfway house, Rome died on June 21, 2021 at 29 years-old.
“It is very special to me that Rome is being memorialized in this year’s Walk to Recovery. I had my own issues with drug addiction, but thankfully have been two and a half years sober. I try to give back by helping others who are going through the same thing. Rome was really, really proud of me. I was sober for six months before he died and he got to see me being sober and getting myself together. Today I work for a rehab facility, Odyssey House, as a behavioral health technician,” London said.
Last year’s Walk was in memory of Denim Thibodeaux, the son of Donald “Donnie” and Wendy Thibodeaux. Denim was 39 when his life tragically ended in January of 2018. Over 250 participants and sponsors helped the Thibodeaux’s to raise more than $30,000 for the cause.
Thousands of men and women in the area suffer from drug and mental health addictions with little hope of recovery because they lack the knowledge or resources to get the help they need.
The goal of this nonprofit event is 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 of the inaugural event.
To register for the Walk, go to www.eventbrite.com or pick up a form at the Gretna Visitors Center, 1035 Huey P. Long Avenue.
For sponsorships, contact Mark Kass at 985-377-2652.
All proceeds from Walk to Recovery will be divided between Bridge House and Grace House of New Orleans and Responsibility House in Terrytown.