Community members from all around the Huntington area packed into the John W. Engeman Theater on Tuesday night for a premiere screening of “Grace,” a short film about heroin recovery.
Marisa Vitali, the film’s creator and a Northport native, based the film on her own struggles with drug addiction and rehabilitation.
“I would have never been able to do this without all of you,” Vitali said after receiving a round of applause once the film ended. She shot the motion picture in Northport, primarily at Tim’s Shipwreck Diner, and used members of the community as extras in the film.
During the unveiling, Vitali said she realized that she has been clean for 14 years, four months and four days, to the day.
“I am so grateful,” she said. “I am so grateful I didn’t wake up dope sick today and I am so grateful I didn’t have to use. Everything else is just a blessing on top of that.”
She then spoke to the people in the room who may be currently going through the same challenge or have a loved one who is.
“I’m sure there are people here who are struggling, who don’t know where to go … but I want to let you know there is a light at the end of the tunnel. We do recover.”
The event was hosted in partnership with the Northport-East Northport Drug and Alcohol Task Force. Profits from tickets, food and raffle tickets sold at the event went toward the Youth Directions and Alternatives, a nonprofit organization serving communities throughout Huntington by developing services and sobriety programs for youth in the communities.
According to Anthony Fernandino, chair of the task force, the event had raised $7,500 before raffle ticket proceeds were counted.
Fernandino has been working with Vitali for almost four years trying to get the event together and was ecstatic to see it all come together.
“It feels great,” he said before the screening. “We sold out and exceeded our expectations. I’m excited because we have a house full of people that we will be able to educate and bring awareness to this issue.”
Northport Mayor George Doll, who Vitali said was a vital part of making the film, was proud to be a part of the event.
“This is a fantastic thing,” he said. “We have people coming here all the time to do films, but hers was special.”
Northport Police Chief Bill Ricca agreed that it was a unique and important approach to combat addiction.
“From a law enforcement standpoint, we can’t arrest ourselves out of this problem,” he said. “We need the community’s help, we need treatment, prevention, and education.”
After the film, there was a question and answer portion in which audience members asked Vitali about how she first got into drugs, got clean and continues to live a healthy life. Barry Zaks, director of Huntington Drug & Alcohol Counseling Center, also answered questions on how and when parents should start having conversations about drugs with their kids.