2019 Persons of the year, News

2019 Persons of the Year: In Lynnfield, Daltons turn tragedy into triumph

LYNNFIELD — In 2018, Carmela and Dick Daltons’ lives were shattered. Their 39-year-old son Michael, a hockey and football standout at St. Sebastian’s School who went on to star at Colby College, died from an opiate overdose while in outpatient treatment.

The Daltons turned their personal tragedy into an incredible success story, helping others with similar addiction issues.

For their efforts, the Daltons are the 2019 Lynnfield Persons of the Year.

Along with their son, Jamie, and daughter, Stacie, the Daltons established the “Think of Michael” foundation, a 501(c) (3) charity, in June of 2019, that provides sober-house financial aid to recovering addicts transitioning from rehabilitation to the real world. 

“We started talking on how to honor Michael’s life and help others with addiction problems,” said Dick Dalton. “After his death we felt like outliers, and didn’t know that other families like ours were going through the same thing.”

“When we found out that sober houses are not covered by insurance we were shocked, so we focused on filling the void in Massachusetts insurance,” added Carmela. “Many people do not have the jobs or funds they need to stay in a sober house, which is a critical component of recovery.” 

The Daltons hit the ground running, forging a relationship with “Magnolia New Beginnings,” a peer-support organization founded by New York Times best-selling author and former Marblehead resident, Maureen Cavanagh.

“It’s a perfect partnership. They have a network of clinicians who refer people they feel can truly benefit from sober-house living,” Dick said. 

In January of 2019, the foundation hosted its first fundraiser, “Trivia Night” at Breakaway in Danvers. The event was a huge success with more than 400 attendees and raised more than $90,000.

“The goal was $15-20,000,” said Dick. “The outpouring of support from the community was amazing.”

In September, the foundation hosted “A Night of Hope” on the Town Common to commemorate the 30th anniversary of National Recovery Month. More than 600 people attended.

“We had ordered only 200 T-shirts and doubled the order, but we still ran out,” said Carmela.

As the foundation worked to fulfill its mission, the Daltons kicked it up a notch when their  eyes were opened to another problem faced by recovering addicts — finding jobs. To address that problem, Dick and Jamie co-founded “Recovery Works,” a non-profit organization affiliated with Massachusetts General Hospital. The organization received $200,000 from the state legislature for a pilot program to assist recovering addicts attempting to re-enter the workforce.

“It’s a totally different ballgame for white-collar addicts,” said Dick. “They don’t  need housing, they need help with jobs, so we assembled a team of Mass General doctors and others to help. We offer pro bono coaching, help with resume writing and practice interviews. Our goal is to get additional funding and get the program in place statewide.”

Preparation is already underway for the next Second Annual Trivia Night, which will be Friday, Jan. 10 at Breakaway.

“The more we grow, the more good we can do,” Dick said. “It’s still early, but we hope to match last year and maybe raise a little more.”

“It was just such a fun night and so rewarding to have such incredible support from the Lynnfield community,” added Carmela. “It’s all about the community coming together.”

More Stories From Lynnfield