Hundreds of students from across Muskoka got a head start in the race against drugs during a drug and alcohol awareness-themed program in Bracebridge last week.
JAWS OF LIFE.
Bracebridge firefighter Matt Boese introduces youngsters to the jaws of life during an auto extrication demostration during Racing Against Drugs, an alcohol and drug awareness program held at the Bracebridge Fairgrounds on Wednesday, September 26. (Photo by Louis Tam)
Dubbed “Racing Against Drugs,” the program was held at the Bracebridge Fairgrounds, and exposed busloads of Grade 4 and 5 students to the dangers of substance abuse. Diane Baranik, a public health nurse with the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit, said the event is instrumental in changing perceptions of substance abuse in rural areas like Muskoka.
“A lot of people don’t believe it’s happening in Muskoka, but like everywhere else it’s absolutely up here,” she said.
Students took turns rotating through a number of “pit stops,” where valuable life lessons were taught in eight-minute intervals. Throughout the three-day event, students learned about the dangers of needles and drugs from Muskoka-area paramedics, saw first-hand the effects of smoking on real lungs, watched Bracebridge firefighters use the jaws of life, and learned about roadway safety from local OPP officers.
The overall goal of the event was to teach children ways of making healthy decisions to stay on track in life, to give them valuable advice on how to navigate challenging times, and to show them where to find assistance if necessary.
The event was organized by a slew of community sponsors, which included All Star Towing, Oliver’s Coffee, Northern Produce and McDonald’s. The event also featured a number of other participants, including the RCMP, Muskoka EMS, the Town of Bracebridge, OPP, Interval House, Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit, Addiction Outreach, Bracebridge Fire Department and the Trillium Lakelands District School Board.
“It’s a real community effort, because it is a community problem,” said Baranik.
Baranik said organizers had chosen to gear the program specifically to students in the Grades 4 and 5 range, because it’s at that young age that opinions are typically formed around drugs and alcohol.
“Some people have said ‘isn’t it too early?’ It’s not. It’s in the Ontario curriculum and we need them to be able to have the information in order to be able to say ‘no,’” she said.