Jeff Heuchert, Gazette staff
The path to personal healing depicted in the new film Home Run isn’t only the stuff of Hollywood magic.
Bill Kechnie sees it every week. Bob Boyd has been on it himself for over 30 years.
The two men are volunteers with Celebrate Recovery – a local faith-based, 12-step program now in its third year. The group meets every Thursday at Avon Mennonite Church, where participants are offered an anonymous group setting to share, discuss, and, it’s hoped over time, find healing from their hurts, hang-ups, and habits.
Some examples include dependency on alcohol or drugs, pornography, low self-esteem, depression, anger, fear of rejection or abandonment, broken relationships, and abuse.
“Everyone wants to look perfect, like they’ve got everything together, but that’s not the reality of it," says Kechnie. “Everyone has struggles.”
The program continues to see new faces on a regular basis as local organizers like Kechnie and Boyd, who have received training and are what the program calls assimilation coaches, help spread word in the community through churches of various denominations, social agencies, and the justice system.
It averages about 40 people a week, a number Boyd is sure will grow in the months ahead thanks to the movie Home Run, which tells the story of pro baseball player Cory Brand, who attends Celebrate Recovery after several alcohol related incidents fueled, in part, by his own personal demons.
Kechnie, who travelled to Saddleback Church in Orange County, Calif., where Celebrate Recovery was founded, for a special screening of the film with the cast and crew, says the idea for Home Run was born when one of its executive producers heard a testimony from a program participant in church.
Released in North America on April 19 for a limited run, the movie reached audiences thanks in large part to a grassroots marketing campaign run by individuals like Kechnie, who handed out posters and spoke to church leaders, and Boyd, who was even able to appear on CTV News in Kitchener with Celebrate Recovery national director Deb Jones to promote the film.
Their efforts paid off – with the help of program supporters in Waterloo, the next nearest city with a Celebrate Recovery chapter, Kechnie, Boyd and others in Stratford were able to sell the 1,000 tickets required to bring the film to Empire Theatre in Waterloo for one weekend. The film did so well it was extended two weeks. In other cities like London, Oakville and Guelph it reached three weeks.
Boyd – a one-time alcoholic who hasn’t had a drink since 1977 – praises the movie for its realism, noting the filmmakers participated in the full Celebrate Recovery program before hand and were able to accurately portray what is often times the most difficult steps towards recovery – acknowledging your problem and accepting help.
“Very few people come in the first night and stay forever,” Boyd says. “And that doesn’t matter if we’re talking about Celebrate Recovery or Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous or any other 12-step program.
“They try it out, but they’re still fighting their addiction.”
With the film’s release, Kechnie and Boyd hope more people can find the strength to attend Celebrate Recovery or seek out help in a way they are comfortable.
Kechnie says program participants are never judged or criticized, but simply offered the one thing they need most – hope. And after three years, he’s seen time and time again the positive influence that simple gesture can have.
“To me,” he adds, “that speaks to what this program is all about.”