Fifth-graders enjoy DARE Fun Day
About 230 fifth-graders slid down slides and looked up at helicopters and other emergency vehicles Friday at the second annual DARE Fun Day at Falling Springs Arts and Recreation Center on Friday, April 21. Students from three of the four Woodford County elementary schools attended. Simmons Elementary students were in Washington, D.C., while St. Leo's Elementary students already had their DARE graduation ceremony. At a time when many police and sheriff's departments have discontinued the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program, Friday's event marked the 30th anniversary of the program in Woodford County. Participating units included the Woodford County Road Department, the Versailles Police Department, the Kentucky State Police, the Scott County Sheriff's Department, the Kentucky National Guard, Woodford Emergency Medical Services, and fire crews from the county and city of Versailles. While the students had already graduated from the eight-week program, there was still a little learning left amidst the fun and frolicking. Woodford Emergency Management Deputy Johnny Mills let the kids climb aboard an ATV belonging to the Bluegrass Emergency Response Team - then showed them how to check the pulse of a "victim." Kayla Sparks was happy to share what she'd learned about the signs of a heart attack: from chest pressure to pain traveling down one or both arms, though she had a bit of trouble with the phrase "excessive fatigue." DARE teacher and Woodford Sheriff's Deputy Bo Morgan stood by as his daughter, Shelby, watched a robot nicknamed "Jarvis" (from the "Iron Man" movies) pick up a backpack. "We're giving them the tools to succeed in making good choices. In the class, we talk about everything - not just the drugs, but the alcohol, the tobacco, bullying," said Morgan. "It's a huge curriculum, but we're trying to get them to come away with, you know, to not do the drugs, to say no. The reason we do the Fun Day is we also want them to see law enforcement in a positive light, emergency services in general in a positive light - that we're here to help people ..." The lessons seemed to sink in, and between sliding down the giant inflatable and touring the many stations, the students were happy to share what they'd learned about the dangers of drugs, alcohol and bullying. "I learned that I can help others in need. For instance, if they're being bullied, I know that I can step up and help them, and make sure that they're safe and I'm safe," said Chelsey Glover. "I learned not to be on drugs and not to do alcohol or mix any medicine," said Mariah Gilliam. "I learned not to do drugs and (to make) good decisions," said Ella Webster. "To always make the right choice, even when it's hard, and always report bullying when you see it," said Addie Biles. "I learned about peer pressure and how not to give in to it," said Maddy Campbell. Asked what she enjoyed most about the DARE Fun Day, Addie Chumley replied, "I really like that we get to see the dogs and we get to go in the emergency ambulances." A few feet away, the man who started the DARE program in Woodford County in 1988, former Sheriff Loren "Squirrel" Carl, stood next to the man who runs it today, incumbent Sheriff Wayne "Tiny" Wright. Each said they'd run into former students over the years who said they'd not only enjoyed the program but learned lessons they never forgot - and each was proud DARE was still an ongoing program in Woodford County. "Now we're starting to hear that a lot of agencies are bringing it back now, and I'm glad that they're bringing it back. But whatever the program's name, whenever you interact with kids, and you can stress to them how important it is to stay drug-free and to have a healthy body, it's a plus. It's a win-win for us," Wright said. "DARE's a great thing, and I'm just glad and proud of Tiny for carrying it on, and Bo (Morgan) and Ricky (Vaught) and Patrick (Shryock) for teaching, and everybody doing it," said Carl. Carl and Wright agreed with the old adage that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. As for the students, the girl who'd learned all about the signs of a heart attack pronounced the field trip the "best day ever!" Why? "Because we get to see a bunch of police stuff and other stuff that is important to our community to help save lives. Also, because we get to go on inflatables and we get to have a little cookout. Woo hoo!" said Kayla Sparks.