Amherst – A new school year is underway and the race is on to deliver a drug and alcohol-free message to children in Cumberland County.
Grade 5 students attending Springhill’s two elementary schools, schools in Amherst and neighbouring Northport joined forces to participate in this year’s Racing Against Drugs. Sponsored by the Amherst Lions and Lioness Clubs and Amherst Police, community partners like Maggie’s Place, Amherst Restorative Justice and many more delivered healthy living messages while empowering students with knowledge through fun.
This year saw 145 students from five schools participate, but the overall impact of the program is now into the thousands.
“This has been going since 1996 and, with everything factored in, it’s been over 3,000 kids that have gone,” Const. Tom Wood with the Amherst Police Department said. “It’s a pretty good achievement.”
The Amherst Lions and Lionesses support the program with resources, a planning committee, and volunteers during the day of the event, as well as providing snacks.
Moving from one school to the next each year, Racing Against Drugs engages the participating Grade 5 students with messages about drug awareness, healthy living and about the services out there to support them, the goal is to make the youth informed now as peer pressure becomes more prevalent in their lives.
“The goals for all the children to realize that there are dangers involved with drugs and what watch for,” Lion Barbara Baxter said. “It’s to promote making the right choices and show them there is a healthier lifestyle without the drugs.”
Community partners headed up information booths where students moved to in groups. Some informed them of services or programs, others offered demonstrations or education. Working together with the schools adds a face to the message and starts introducing the youth to the larger community. It’s a model that’s stood to the test of time, Const. Wood said.
“The schools do a lot or programming against drugs. This is just one part of the puzzle and we hope the overall package they are bombarded with gets the message across,” Wood said. It’s an uphill battle, unfortunately, but at Grade 5 is where sometimes experimenting happens and why we want to target them. We want to plant the seed so when they are exposed to something they can stand up.”
Following the event, each of the school received $250 from the Lions to go towards their drug awareness programs in their schools to help keep the message going through the school year.