Hear the stories of Recovery Champions

Chris Herren

Former Professional Athlete and Wellness Advocate

Chris Herren was a celebrated basketball star at Durfree High School in Fall River, MA and went on the play at Boston College and Fresno State. He played two seasons in the NBA, including one with his hometown team, the Boston Celtics- and seven seasons overseas before losing everything to the disease of addiction.

With the help of family and the support of others in recovery, Herren worked his way to sobriety in 2008 and, one day at a time, has stayed there. His recovery journey has been documented in the bestselling memoir Basketball Junkie, the Emmy nominated ESPN Films documentary Unguarded and most recently The First Day.

Through Herren Talks, Chris has spoken to over one million students and community members, giving hundreds of presentations to students, community groups and corporations each year sparking honest discussions about substance use and wellness.

In 2011 he established Herren Project, a nonprofit foundation, that provides prevention programs for schools, scholarships for treatment and recovery housing, as well as recovery coaching and online support for families.

Most recently, he founded Herren Wellness, a residential health and wellness program that helps guests lead healthy, substance-free lives with locations in Seekonk, MA and Warrenton, VA. His inspirational message and organizations have helped thousands of people.

Brandon Novak

Film & TV Star, Pro Skater, New York Times Bestselling Author

Brandon Novak catapulted to stardom at a young age as a professional skateboarder, traveling the world with the likes of Tony Hawk, Bucky Lasek, and Bam Margera. The first pro skater to ever be endorsed by Gatorade at the age of just 15, Brandon gained fame and success as a member of the renowned Powell-Peralta team and starred in the legendary CKY video series. He went on to star in the MTV Jackass movies and on the hit television show Viva La Bam. However, there was a dark side to Brandon’s success. He battled heroin addiction for more then twenty years, eventually ending up homeless on the streets of Baltimore. Now, with more than 3.5 years sober Brandon has gone on to author the New York Times bestselling memoir Dreamseller, and also the first ever addiction graphic novel The Brandon Novak Chronicles. He travels the country, speaking on his inspirational story of recovery and raising awareness of resources that are available to those who are still struggling. Brandon has appeared on Good Day New York, Good Day Philadelphia, and Great Day Houston, among many others. Most recently, he was featured in a HeartThreads mini-doc with TEGNA Productions that was shown in more than 40 US markets and garnered more than 4.2 million views.

Watch the mini doc here.

Matt Ganem the Poet

Executive Director of Banyan Massachusetts

After battling addiction for many years, Matt Ganem finally found recovery and has been able to touch the lives of tens of thousands of individuals through his work in the field of addiction treatment, with non-profit organizations, and his deep passion for music and poetry. Matt received an award for 2015 Recovery Advocate of the Year, and has previously appeared on Fox 25 local news in Boston, and has been featured in The Boston Herald celebrating the difference he is making in the community. He has spoken at the Massachusetts State House on issues surrounding the opioid epidemic, and works closely with the organization “I Am Not Anonymous,” which enables those in recovery to share their stories to help end the stigma of addiction. Matt has authored The Shadow of an Addict, a book of poetry that details his struggles; he shares his journey through music and spoken word.

Most recently, Matt performed at Recovery Fest 2018 with Above the Noise Foundation alongside superstar rapper Macklemore. The crowd drew thousands and Matt was given a standing ovation. He routinely produces music videos centered on recovery, and has helped countless others to find the help they so desperately need to overcome addiction.

Pamela Leal

Mental Health Advocate and Founder of Yoga4B

In March of 2013, Pamela lost her beautiful and talented daughter Bailey to suicide. Bailey had started seeing a therapist and was put on anti-depressants to help ease her symptoms. During this time Bailey continued to do well in school and played both Travel and School soccer. She was such a talented soccer player that big colleges were interested in recruiting her to play for them. Bailey seemed despondent during this time but her behavior never raised any obvious flags for self-harm. Sadly, Bailey left her body voluntarily just 6 months after starting treatment for depression and anxiety. The incredible loss and pain of losing her daughter is what has continued to fuel Pamela’s continued philanthropy in her community.

Pamela then found the inner strength to host her first Yogathon in honor of her beloved daughter’s memory. She continues to advocate for mental health wellness resources and to help end the stigma surrounding mental illness and suicide. This heartfelt event continued to grow and is still being held Bi-annually with 100% of funds raised being donated to different organizations and programs that support mental health awareness and treatments.

On February 14th 2018 Baileys little sister Madison was attending Marjory Stoneman Douglas during the now infamous Parkland High School shooting. Thankfully Madison was unharmed but it became increasingly clear to Pamela that we need to change the way we educate our children and at the very least we need to open up the conversation surrounding mental illness at the dinner table.

In a continued effort to make a difference in her community, Pamela has founded and helped start several programs. The Yoga 4 MSD program has implemented a yoga curriculum for struggling youth at Marjory Stoneman Douglas. Pamela’s latest program Waves of Hope is one that she holds very close to her heart as a mother who has experienced the painful loss of a child and knows the loneliness and darkness that follows what is possibly the most traumatic loss anyone could ever experience . Waves of Hope provides grieving parents suffering from depression, PTSD and anxiety with the opportunity to attend a week long grief relieving retreat in Costa Rica where they will receive professional grief/trauma counseling, workshops, daily yoga, meditation sessions, journaling courses, energy work, massages, 3 organic vegetarian meals a day, excursions and more. 100% of all expenses are paid for parents that are financially unable to afford such a trip.

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