How Derrick Ford's singing competition is helping people in recovery become symbols of hope - Generocity Philly


Aug. 29, 2016 10:12 am

How Derrick Ford’s singing competition is helping people in recovery become symbols of hope

Recovery Idol just ended its sixth year with a performance at the Dell.

Derrick "Rick" Ford (left) announces the winner of Recovery Idol 2016.

(Photo by Tony Abraham)

In seventh grade, Derrick “Rick” Ford was smoking weed. By ninth grade, he said, he wasn’t “in high school” as much as he was “high in school.”

His smoking habit eventually evolved into a full-blown addiction to hard drugs, and by adulthood, the Strawberry Mansion native told the Daily News in 2014, he was “homeless, eating out of dumpsters and sleeping next to dead bodies in an abandoned house at 15th and Poplar with no lights, no water, no heat.”

Now, Ford is 26 years sober, hosts a radio show called Recovery Hour on 900AM-WURD and is a community liaison with Philadelphia’s Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual Disability Services.

He’s also the founder of Recovery Idol, an American Idol-inspired singing competition for Philadelphians in recovery from drug addiction. The competition’s sixth season began in March with 22 hopeful contestants and concluded this past weekend with a two-and-a-half-hour show featuring local musicians, fashion designers, dance squads and a socially charged spoken word artist at Dell Music Center.

Here’s Ford describing the event heading into its second year in 2012:

Three contestants — Joe Boatright, Danny Bombaro and Zackery Dantzler — performed for a packed amphitheater at the Fairmount Park venue, with Danztler ultimately winning over the hearts of four judges. [Full disclosure: This reporter was one of them.] Here’s Dantzler’s performance from the third round of Recovery Idol earlier this summer:

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Ford also presented a number of awards to leaders in the recovery community, including Wedge Medical Center ED Christopher Sweeney, Northeast Treatment Centers President and CEO Regan Kelly and Men & Women for Human Excellence founder Kenny Ali.

The evening was a strong show of community support for people in recovery and a tip of the hat to creative empowerment as healthy self-care in practice. Throughout the night, Ford made sure to recognize leaders in the community who were offering on-site treatment for attendees who needed it.

Ford’s Recovery Idol is a reminder of the power of human experience in a field dominated by data-driven strategies and evidence-based practice. After all, nothing soothes the soul or bring a community together quite like music.


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