Bunny Band: Award pays tribute to woman who overcame addiction


By Linda Laderman
Legal News

When Bunny Band died four years ago, her family never imagined that their friend, retired Oakland County Circuit Judge Joan Young, would quietly sponsor and fund an annual award that honored their sister Bunny’s volunteer commitment to mentoring women who, like herself, were once addicted to opioids.

Now in its third year, the Bunny Band Volunteer Award is presented annually to a person who epitomizes Band’s dedication to working on behalf of the women in the residential drug treatment program at Community Programs Inc. (CPI) in Waterford.

This year the award was presented to Angie Gilman who, as an employee of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, helps CPI’s patients find community resources and register for insurance through plans like Healthy Michigan after they are released from the program.

Gilman caught the attention of staff and residents for her willingness to go above and beyond what was expected of her, said Ken Briggs, a detox counselor and administrator for program relations and business development at CPI.

“Because of Angie’s work our former residents are able to find affordable medication for pre-existing issues that they might not have been treated for many years,” Briggs said. “Her dedication to our residents enables many of them to get the insurance coverage they need in order to live a healthy life as productive members of society.”

While overcoming substance abuse is not a criterion for CPI’s volunteers, Briggs said Band became a dedicated volunteer after she completed the 30-day treatment plan for an addiction to pain killers.

“Bunny became dependent on opioids after surgery,” Briggs said. “In treatment, Bunny ‘got it.’ She understood how drug abuse affects the entire family. Then she came back and volunteered.”

According to Briggs, the award ceremony is a celebratory scene, with a party that includes volunteers, in patients, testimonials from individuals involved in the drug treatment community.

“Giving this award is one of my favorite things to do,” Briggs said. “It’s a moment to celebrate recovery and hear mentors who were former patients share their story.”

For those in attendance, the event is an emotional occasion, one that not only honors Band’s work, but inspires the current residents to go forward by following Band’s desire to give back after successfully finishing the program.

“It makes us so happy to talk about someone who actually did it – who worked hard and conquered her disease. It’s an honor to do that,” Briggs said. “I always say I am not going to cry when the award is presented, but everyone
in the entire room is crying.” Band’s sisters, family law attorney Harriet Rotter and realtor Judy Komer, attend the yearly event where they listen to tributes about their sister’s work.

“I come home and cry tears of joy that my sister will forever be remembered,” Rotter said. “Bunny credited CPI for saving her life. When she left the center and became a volunteer, she had a new life.”

Even though Rotter and Young are lifelong friends, Rotter said she was taken completely by surprise when she found out that the recently retired judge created an award in her sister’s name.

“Joan was aware that Bunny was CPI’s favorite person,” said Rotter. “She thought it would be wonderful to establish an award in Bunny’s honor. When I found out about it, I couldn’t believe it. I was so touched by it. I never in a million years expected this.”

For more than a decade, Young was among the judges presiding over Oakland County’s Adult Treatment Court where she saw people, like Bunny, struggle with addiction.

“There are lots of people, like Bunny, who you would never know have a problem,” Young said. “She was an interesting, fine, good person, someone who had a problem, got over it, and helped those with a similar problem. A lot of people don’t get recognition for what they do. It seemed to me we should give Bunny recognition for what she did.”