Lansing, U.P. to honor the late John Kivela with a new fund to support addiction treatment

A fundraiser dinner in honor of the late Rep. John Kivela, — Marquette — shown meeting with local members of the Michigan Education Association-Retired union — will be held Wednesday in Lansing. (Journal file photo)

MARQUETTE –Lansing-area friends and former colleagues of the late state Rep. John Kivela will host “Spaghetti & Sisu” on May 9 in Lansing to honor him and launch a new fund in his name to support addiction treatment in the Upper Peninsula.

The event is in conjunction with the launch of the new John Kivela Legacy Fund, created in collaboration with the Kivela family, and which will be administered by the Great Lakes Recovery Centers Foundation.

“Spaghetti & Sisu” is 4:30 to 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Central United Methodist Church, 215 N. Capitol Ave. in Lansing. People can buy tickets or donate at www.KivelaLegacyFund.org. There will be a brief program at 5:30 p.m.

People who cannot attend the event can donate any amount to the fund by visiting www.KivelaLegacyFund.org.

The Kivela family chose the nonprofit Great Lakes Recovery Centers Foundation to administer the new fund because GLRC has been providing professional substance abuse and mental health treatment for youth, families and adults across the Upper Peninsula for nearly 35 years.

Kivela, D-Marquette, died of suicide on May 9, 2017, after a long struggle with alcoholism. The informal “Spaghetti & Sisu” dinner serves as a space for those in Lansing who will find it helpful to get together, reminisce and do something good in his honor, according to a press release.

The Kivela family, which will be marking the day together privately, expressed appreciation for Kivela’s friends and colleagues in Lansing and the U.P. for coming together to help launch the John Kivela Legacy Fund.

“All the support and love we continue to get from so many people who knew my dad has helped our family make it through the pain of losing him, which still hurts every day,” Shelby Kivela, Kivela’s daughter, said in the release. “We want part of his legacy to be that everyone talks more openly about addiction and mental health issues — that people reach out to get help and that the resources they need are available. It means so much to our family that the John Kivela Legacy Fund will be there to help people in the U.P., which is what my dad focused on throughout his life.”

Craig Brunet, Kivela’s legislative director, said as the anniversary of Kivela’s death approaches one year, many are still struggling to deal with the void he left in their lives.

“That is why we are hoping through the generosity of John’s friends and colleagues we can help fund assistance programs for individuals currently battling substance abuse or having suicidal thoughts,” Brunet said. “It is our goal to prevent anyone else from having to deal with the pain of losing a family member, friend or neighbor to substance abuse.”

In keeping with John’s legacy of bipartisanship, legislators and staffers on both sides of the aisle and in both chambers are working together to put on “Spaghetti & Sisu” and help launch the new fund.

Hosts of the dinner fundraiser include: House Speaker Tom Leonard, R-DeWitt; House Democratic Leader Sam Singh, D-East Lansing; Rep. Bob Kosowski, D-Westland; Sen. David Knezek, D-Dearborn Heights; Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba; former Rep. Ed McBroom, R-Vulcan; Sen. Margaret O’Brien, D-Kalamazoo; former Rep. Bill LaVoy, D-Monroe; former Rep. Andrea LaFontaine, R-Columbus Township; Rep. Jeremy Moss, D-Southfield; Rep. Joe Bellino, R-Monroe; Rep. Jon Hoadley, D-Kalamazoo; and Rep. Adam Zemke, D-Ann Arbor.