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Racing Against Drugs making a difference after 20-plus years

Grade 5 students from several elementary schools in Cumberland County participated in the annual Racing Against Drugs program that was hosted this year at Cumberland North Academy. One of the activities included balancing a ball on strings of yarn to keep it from falling to the floor.
Grade 5 students from several elementary schools in Cumberland County participated in the annual Racing Against Drugs program that was hosted this year at Cumberland North Academy. One of the activities included balancing a ball on strings of yarn to keep it from falling to the floor. - Darrell Cole

Helping Grade 5 students make healthy choices, positive decisions

BROOKDALE, N.S. —

One life.

It’s what participants at the Amherst Lions Club’s Racing Against Drugs program aim to save from a life of drug or alcohol abuse. If they achieve that, they know they’ve been successful.

“We pick Grade 5 for a reason. It’s the age when they might start getting the exposure to drugs or alcohol for the first time, so we want to help them make healthy choices,” Const. Tom Wood of the Amherst Police Department said. “We want to raise awareness, so they’re not bombarded with the negative impacts of drugs.”

Wood said programs such as Racing Against Drugs, do make a difference. The police department and the Amherst Lions Club have the believe that if they make a make change to even one participating child they know they have accomplished something.

“If we can change one child we know we’ve made a difference and it makes it all worthwhile,” Wood said. “It helps get the message across and it’s something the Grade 5 students look forward to because now that the program has been going for as long as it has they’ve had brothers and sisters go through it and talk about how much fun they had.”

More than 100 students from several Cumberland County schools in Springhill (Junction Road and West End-Memorial), Amherst (Spring Street Academy and Cumberland North Academy) and Northport participated in the program this year. In other years, students from River Hebert and West Highland Elementary participate.

Activities included the Amherst Police Department and MADD Bordertown Chapter’s Fatal Vision Goggles that saw students trying to hit targets with a beanbag while wearing the goggles that mimicked the effects of alcohol of drug impairment.

There was the ever-popular car races that saw students from the participating schools go head-to-head racing wooden cars down a sloped track. There was also a bouncy castle and presentations from Cumberland Public Health, Maggie’s Place, Crime Stoppers, the RCMP, CN Police and representatives from Pharmasave.

“The race track adds some excitement to the day, but it’s also how it all started more than 20 years ago,” Wood said. “The first event had a race track and that’s how it go its name. It also gives a little competition between the schools to try and win the trophy.”

Lion Phil Baxter said drug awareness has been a key program of the Amherst club for close to 40 years. The late Cecil Small and his wife, Louise, played a prominent role in the first drug awareness committee.

Louise said it started with students participating in a poster contest and also a public speaking competition that brought elementary school students together

Baxter said it moved to its present format just over 20 years ago.

“It has been said several times that if we turn one kid away from drugs then we’ve done our job,” he said. “It’s something we, as Lions, hold very dear. We want them to know they don’t have to go to drugs, there are other things to do.”

He said the program has been successful and by getting to them young they gather the information they need when they’re first approached about experimenting with drugs or alcohol.

Baxter said Racing Against Drugs is just one of the programs that’s a priority for Amherst Lions along with its sight programs that help people with vision impairment receive glasses or guide dogs.

Baxter said the Lions district has a drug program, but the Amherst club is the only one with Racing Against Drugs.

The biggest thing is working with young people.

“The Amherst Lions Club is big into serving youth,” he said. “We do it through this program as we do for little league baseball, our park in West Highlands and our Christmas for Kids program.”

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