Lynnfield gathers for Night of Hope

The Dalton family, from left, Jamie, Carmela, and Dick organized the fifth annual Night of Hope event with A Healthy Lynnfield in honor of Michael Dalton. (Vishakha Deshpande)

LYNNFIELD — The town gathered in large numbers Sunday evening at Lynnfield Middle School and walked toward the Town Common for the fifth annual Night of Hope event held in remembrance of Michael Dalton, who died of opioid abuse five years ago.

Michael Dalton was a talented athlete with a loving family. His passing led his parents, Carmela and Dick Dalton, to found the Think of Michael Foundation. The goal of the foundation is to help individuals with substance-use disorders who have completed inpatient care and need transitional housing.

Night of Hope, hosted by the Think of Michael Foundation in partnership with A Healthy Lynnfield, recognizes volunteers and organizations that help people struggling with addiction, celebrate individuals in recovery, and discuss the importance of hope and community support for those battling substance-use disorders.

Dick Dalton said that the foundation has never denied assistance to a qualified candidate in its five years of existence, and it continues to help individuals transform their lives through its support. 

“Not every encounter has a positive outcome,” Dick Dalton said. “But we decided that from the very beginning of this journey, if we can spare just one family the tragedy that we endured in losing our son, it will all be worth it.”

The foundation honored First Justice Matthew Machera, of Chelsea, for his work with the recovery court program. The program provides intensive court supervision and substance-use treatment to those suffering from addiction instead of adjudication or incarceration.

“This award really doesn’t belong to me,” Machera said. “It belongs to each and every one of you that are here today. I tell my recovery court group all the time that I am the least important person in that group. When people say to me, ‘What’s the greatest thing about your job?’ it’s that one day a week I get to work with my heroes. And a hero is not a person who can throw or hit a ball 400-plus feet. Heroes are the recovery coaches who are here, they are those who have toppled this disease and are then giving back to society.”

Jamie Dalton, Michael’s brother, suffered from substance-use addiction as well. However, the death of his brother propelled him toward recovery. At the event, he highlighted the importance of hope in recovery, emphasizing its life-saving potential along with the need to support those who are still struggling.

“I found purpose in pain and prioritize mental health through service,” he said. “My family and I will never be the same after my brother’s death but grief changes shape. It never ends. I started my day today at Woodlawn Cemetery, which is where I go to get my strength. I’ve since found my own path in recovery. I’ve dedicated my life and my work to helping other people do the same. I will try to make Mike proud and I know he’s with me tonight.”

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