AMHERST, N.S. - Making healthy choices is something young people need to learn as early as possible.
That was one of the messages that came out of the Amherst Lions Club’s annual Racing Against Drugs celebration that saw Grade 5 students from four Cumberland County elementary schools come together for a day of fun and learning at West Highlands Elementary School.
“We get a lot of the schools together, they get to mingle and make new friends, but they also get a message about the effects of drugs and making good decision and how bad decisions can lead to an unhealthy lifestyle,” Const. Michelle Harrison of the Amherst Police Department said.
For several decades the Amherst Lions Club has hosted various drug awareness events, but its Racing Against Drugs program seems to have had the biggest impact on spreading awareness about the dangers of drug use and abuse.
“It’s about making health choices,” she said.
But it’s about more than saying no to drugs, though. Barb Baxter, who chairs the event for the Amherst club, said it’s about reinforcing healthy lifestyles. Various community organizations were represented at the event that included approximately 120 students.
“We want the young people to make sensible choices when it comes to using things like drugs and we want them to learn a bit more about being healthy and physically active,” said Baxter.
The Amherst Lions also backed that up with $250 donations to each of the participating schools to promote their health and drug awareness programs.
JC’s TaeKwon-do, the Nova Scotia Community College, Restorative Justice and Public Health were joined by Amherst Pharmasave, CN Police, the Amherst Police and the RCMP. There were various fun activities for the participants with a race of wooden cars at the end to crown the championship school.
West Highlands Elementary School principal Kirk Rioux said the schools are already encouraging students to make healthy decisions through the curriculum. He said Racing Against Drugs reinforces that message.
“This is when they get into those public healthy habits, like healthy diet, regular exercise and staying away from things that are harmful,” Rioux said. “We talk about these things in our health curriculum, but events such as this put it on a bigger stage and makes it more memorable for them.”
Colleen Dowe, coordinator of Cumberland county’s three community health boards, said the event promotes healthy living. The Public Health/CHB booth talked to the students about how much sugar is in some of the foods they eat and what they drink.
“This is health promotion and doing things before bad habits are formed,” Dowe said. “We want students to know what’s in the food and drinks they have.”
Dowe said along with healthy living, promoting the use of less sugar also speaks volumes for oral health – a message that’s just as important.
“We’re trying to encourage students to drink more water and to tap the tap and not to use bottled water. There are water fountains all over the place and they have taps at home from which to get water,” Dowe said.