Kivela’s impact continues on

Former state Rep. John Kivela had a profound impact on the community he lived in and served. This was evident at the second annual Spaghetti and Sisu event Monday.

The event, which was held at the Messiah Lutheran Church in Marquette, celebrated the memory of Kivela while raising money for the John Kivela Legacy Fund administered by the Great Lakes Recovery Centers Foundation.

It was the first time the event was held in Marquette, organizers said, as the inaugural event was held by state legislators in Lansing last year in conjunction with the launch of the John Kivela Legacy Fund.

“We’re fortunate that really a group of family and friends of John came together last year and wanted to find a way to honor his legacy,” Great Lakes Recovery Center CEO Greg Toutant said.

The John Kivela Legacy Fund supports treatment and advocacy efforts for addiction and behavioral health disorders through Great Lakes Recovery Centers. It aims to help communities by caring for individuals who struggle with behavioral health and/or addiction disorders, organizers said.

State Sen. Ed McBroom was in attendance, and spoke on Kivela’s memory.

“I’m so glad that we’re keeping that vision and the legacy that John started alive,” said McBroom, R-Vulcan. “And that a lot of this has to do with strengthening communities — because of these struggles that people have with behavioral health, mental health, substance abuse — those are all things that are adversely impacting our communities as well.”

Over $14,000 was raised during last year’s event, with a total of $22,000 raised for the fund in 2018, Toutant said.

The fund’s first disbursement was to the agency’s Compassionate Care program, which “provided access to treatment for some folks that wouldn’t have had access otherwise,” he said.

Kivela, D-Marquette, took his own life on May 9, 2017, after a struggle with alcoholism. The event gave attendees a chance to come together and reminisce about Kivela’s life and legacy while supporting services that can help others who face similar battles.

Kivela was “a very loving person toward those he worked with and certainly everyone here in the district,” said state Rep. Sara Cambensy, D-Marquette.

One of the first people Cambensy met after being elected to the seat was a Republican legislator who told Cambensy about the profound impact Kivela had on him.

“He sat down and he said, ‘It’s so nice to meet you. I have to tell you how much I got along with John, how much I miss him. And here’s what he did for me: he was a person that I looked to when I needed help — when I was weak, when I was having a bad day — he was someone I could call at any hour of the night to get me through anything,'” Cambensy said.

The untimely loss of Kivela was one that left a profound sadness over the community. However, we are very pleased to see his legacy carry on in all kinds of different ways.

Even in death, his name continues to make his community a better place and help its citizens. We know he would be honored to see people come together in this way.

The 12th annual Run for Recovery, which will also support the John Kivela Legacy Fund, will be held in Marquette from 5 to 7:30 p.m. July 24. For more information, visit www.greatlakesrecovery .org/event/run-for-recovery/ or call 906-228-5879.

For those who wish to donate to the fund or learn more, visit www.kivelalegacyfund.org.

If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 800-273-8255.