Nick Basalyga said his ride across the country had “many parallels” to recovery.
“Recovery is about change,” said Basalyga, who cycled 1,407 miles alone across the United States to raise awareness for recovery from drug addiction. “It’s about being uncomfortable and humbling yourself to ask for help and support to see through those changes and moments of discomfort.”
In June, Basalyga started In the Saddle, a non-profit that focuses on building a fellowship of recovery through cycling, community service and group support.
David Chiavacci, a 2010 accounting alumnus and former Temple football linebacker, is the treasurer and secretary of the organization.
Basalyga, who has been in recovery for more than six years, received a master’s degree in social work from New York University in 2014. He most recently worked as a primary counselor at a 30-day inpatient drug and alcohol treatment center.
With a relapse rate between 40 to 60 percent following a 30-day inpatient treatment experience, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Basalyga said he was inspired to create a program where people stayed in recovery.
“While working at Marworth Treatment Center in Waverly, PA, I would notice the success that individuals would have while in a structured and safe environment, being supported by peers in recovery,” Basalyga said.
He said he wanted to provide opportunities for individuals to stay in recovery through services and activities “designed to strengthen their sense of identity, purpose and belonging.”
“From the time I got sober, I changed everything: people, places and things,” Basalyga said. “I began to take up new hobbies and interests and changed my career to social work to be of service to others.”
One of Basalyga’s new hobbies was cycling, which he became an “outlet” during his recovery.
Chiavacci, a longtime friend of Basalyga, decided to help with the program in its fundraising stage after seeing his friend’s passion and drive.
On July 1, Chiavacci began helping the organization by reaching out to businesses, networking and tracking funding.
“It started out as me helping a close friend, but you begin to realize how much drugs and alcohol affect thousands of people,” Chiavacci said. “I could be doing a lot more to help those in need.”
Before starting at Temple, Chiavacci came from a sheltered neighborhood in Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania and said moving to Philadelphia opened his eyes to the effects drugs have on certain communities.
As secretary and treasurer of In the Saddle, Chiavacci said he helps Basalyga carry out his mission while also handling financial responsibilities.
“In the Saddle has a unique focus on health and wellness,” Chiavacci said. “That’s the main vision.”
The program will also include community service, which helps people in recovery become bicycle mechanics and make indirect amends to their community.
“We decided to base In The Saddle in Philadelphia for two reasons,” Basalyga said. “The city is very bike-friendly and secondly, it has been impacted greatly by the opioid epidemic,” Basalyga said.
During his two-month journey across the country, which started in San Francisco and ended in Philadelphia, Basalyga had time to think about the program and connect with people through recovery.
“I never once wanted to give up,” he said. “The ride and this program is bigger than me and I was riding for those who need a program like this.”
With plans to begin accepting members into the program in January 2017, Basalyga will spend this fall continuing to fundraise and grow support for the organization.
“Even if we help five people to better themselves, it will be well worth it,” Chiavacci said. “I’m looking forward to working one on one with people and seeing them grow week by week.”
Madison Hall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.