Young people don't need drugs to have fun. Just ask the 160 students who took part in the Race Against Drugs campaign this week.
Eighty Cumberland North students and 80 more from West Highlands Elementary School in Amherst were bused in for the day of drug awareness activities at the Brookdale school, hosted by the Amherst Lions Club and various partners.
"The underlying theme is to stay away from drugs and make healthy choices," said Sgt. Keith MacKinnon, an RCMP officer visiting from Halifax with the presentation. "And that's basically what we're trying to get out to kids at this age group."
MacKinnon and Const. Lana Woodfine were joined by local community policing officer Const. Dal Hutchinson of the Cumberland RCMP, Const. Francis Smith, Const. Natasha Estabrooks and various officers from the Amherst Police Department, local firefighters, members of the Amherst Lions and Lioness Clubs, Addiction Services, MADD, SADD and Safety Net.
Also on hand was local drag racer Barry Melanson with his car, which created plenty of attention while parked in front of the school.
Various stations were also set up inside the gymnasium, and students visited them at 10-minute intervals. Highlights included two electronic racetracks, a puppet show put on by Lioness Dianne Chitty, and the fatal vision goggles demonstrating the dangers of being impaired.
"We show kids the race track, and how there is no way race car drivers would be able to compete at the high level they do on drugs or alcohol," said Smith. "With the goggles, this is what an impaired person is seeing, and would you get in a car with that person? Overall, it's choices. Don't bow to peer pressure, and make your own decisions for yourself."
The Lions purchased t-shirts for every participating student in Grades 5 and 6, and also donated $250 to each of the participating schools.
"Drug awareness has been a big thing with the Lions club for years," explained Tom Fisher, who co-chair's the club's drug awareness committee. "We used to do a poster contest, but last year we tried this at Spring Street Academy. The kids are still talking about it and so is the fire chief."
Judging by the raucous laughter and obvious excitement coming from the students, the campaign was receiving a positive reception. Students Corey Cameron and Nick Denby said their favourite activity was the fatal vision goggles, while Michael Thom also seemed happy with what he learned.
"I learned not to do drugs, and how it can affect the body," he said. "It's not very good. If you do it once, you might get addicted, and then messed up."
At the end of the day, the students picked team captains for their final race on the track, with numerous prizes handed out.
"It reinforces the teamwork theme, and that it's not just an individual thing," said MacKinnon. "They all learn together and support each other as they get older, we hope."