K.C. Hume straps Alissa Flannery, a third-grader at Ridgeview Elementary, into the fire engine for a ride to school after the Substance Abuse Prevention Program's award ceremony Thursday morning at McDonald's in Craig. Students were awarded money for tickets they sold to a pancake breakfast that raised about $6,900 to benefit the SAPP program.

Photo by Hans Hallgren

K.C. Hume straps Alissa Flannery, a third-grader at Ridgeview Elementary, into the fire engine for a ride to school after the Substance Abuse Prevention Program's award ceremony Thursday morning at McDonald's in Craig. Students were awarded money for tickets they sold to a pancake breakfast that raised about $6,900 to benefit the SAPP program.

'Anything can help'

Craig elementary students raise funds for Substance Abuse Prevention Program

— When Austin Luker received a laptop from Jerry Hoberg, Substance Abuse Prevention Program president, he said he felt one emotion.

Relief.

During a period of two and a half weeks in late October, Luker sold nearly 300 tickets to a pancake breakfast, the prevention program's sole fundraiser.

His goal: to sell more tickets than anyone else.

"It's one of the goals I've wanted to reach for a few years," he said. "Finally reaching it is really a relief."

For his efforts, he won the grand prize - a Dell laptop - at an awards breakfast held Thursday morning at McDonalds in Craig.

"He did a good job," said his father, Craig Police officer Alvin Luker. "He put in the effort to make it happen."

Austin was one of several third- through sixth-graders who participated in the fundraiser. This year, the students raised about $6,900, SAPP secretary/treasurer Becky Otis said.

Event proceeds go toward funding youth drug, tobacco and alcohol abuse prevention programs.

By selling tickets, children give back to a program that contributes to their wellbeing, Hoberg said.

"The kids help support us because we help support them," he said.

Former Craig Police Chief Glen Sherman started the program in the early 1980s to collect and distribute funds for substance abuse prevention initiatives in Moffat County.

In addition to supporting an after-school program at Craig elementary schools, SAPP sponsors three $1,000 college scholarships and works on projects with the Grand Futures Prevention Coalition, another drug and alcohol abuse prevention program.

The program helps Craig Police and Fire departments and the Moffat County Sheriff's Office fund Drug Abuse Resistance Education - a program that teaches students how to identify and avoid drug abuse.

The 13-week program is taught primarily in sixth grade.

Students in sixth grade and younger can be subject to peer pressure to experiment with drugs, said Craig Police officer Carolyn Wade, one of three officers who teaches D.A.R.E.

"It's nice to believe kids will remain innocent," she said.

However, children can become involved in drug activity at the ages of 5 and 6, she added.

To counter drug experimentation, the program teaches students how to respond to peer pressure and build positive self-esteem. The curriculum operates under the belief that students with higher self esteem are more likely to not be pressured into taking drugs, Wade said.

Recently, the effectiveness of substance abuse prevention measures such as D.A.R.E. have come into question, Craig Police captain Jerry DeLong said.

"There's really no way to quantify the results of drug and alcohol abuse programs," he said. "In my opinion, any program for the youth of the community that teaches them to stay away from drug and alcohol is worthwhile."

Various influences outside of the program, including home life, affect a child's decision to either abstain from or accept drugs, Hoberg said.

"How do you know (when) talking to a sixth grader if the D.A.R.E. program got through to him - if he will remain drug-free for the rest of his life?" he said.

Hoberg measures the program's success by the impact it has on individual students.

If the program helps one child resist drug abuse, it has fulfilled its mission, he said.

"The way we look at it is, anything can help," he added.

Bridget Manley can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 207 or bmanley@craigdailypress.com

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