LIMA — Allen County D.A.R.E. officer Mike White said he believes that you need to reach children early.
At the Allen County Fair on Monday, he said that is exactly what they are attempting to do annually with the annual fun day. D.A.R.E. partners with the Allen County Junior Fair Board each year in hosting the event.
“We are just trying to give the kids a positive activity,” White said. “It is sort of a last fling before school starts. We want to show them you can have fun without drugs.”
The youth activity day featured plenty of games such as milking a simulated cow, pie-eating contest, a ring toss, fishing, face painting, cornhole as well as many other events. All of the events were featured around lessons in how to avoid drugs or alcohol or getting yourself out of bad situations. All child attendees were also given a bag with many different goodies thanks to local sponsors.
White said it was one of the better attended events they have had at the fair in the seven years he has been D.A.R.E. officer.
“We usually make enough bags for 200 kids and sometimes we have a few left over that we take back to the station,” White said. “This year, we ran out very early.”
White guessed well in excess of 300 children attended the event.”
White said this way children can learn early what to do and how to make smart choices.
“I have had kids come up to me several years later and say they were at a party where there was drugs or alcohol and they had no idea what to do,” White said. “They said they remembered what they learned in D.A.R.E. and were able to get out of the situation. You can’t help every kid, but even if you help one, the whole D.A.R.E. program is worth it.”
Children were also treated to free popcorn and a raffle drawing was held with new bicycles and other prizes for the children.
Griffin Newland, 15, and a member of the junior fair board, said he thought that the youth activities were a big deal.
It was his first year as a board member working with the youth activity day.
“It is when they are most impressionable and they are just starting to learn,” Newland said. “It is a fun way to teach them how bad that stuff can be and it can teach them how to deal with people that use that stuff when they are around. It also gives the kids a day that they can have some fun.”
Other activities for kids during the day included a youth fishing derby held in the morning and a jungle island zoo, as well as Boffo the World’s Strongest Clown and Matt Jergens the Juggler. The fishing derby alone drew another 200 children to the grounds.