Last Thursday, at the Barry County Commission's 2012 budget hearing, Sheriff Mick Epperly announced that an anonymous donor has committed to support the continuation of the county DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program through a $10,000 donation. DARE serves the Shell Knob, Exeter, Southwest, Wheaton and Purdy school districts. (Cassville maintains its own DARE program through the Cassville Police Department.)
I was excited to hear that one generous Barry Countian stepped forward to help continue a program that is designed to teach area sixth grade students about the dangers of drugs, alcohol and tobacco. In addition to continuing the DARE program, which teaches kids about peer pressure and provides tools for saying "no" to destructive behavior, the $10,000 donation will give the county the money to provide one local resident with a part-time job as a bailiff at the Barry County Judicial Center.
The Barry County Sheriff's Department has offered the DARE program in area schools since 1991. The program was first taught, and developed, by Dana Kammerlohr. After Kammerlohr accepted her current position as Cassville police chief, Deputy Larry Stockton stepped into the county DARE instructor position. Stockton offers nearly a dozen 45-minute lessons at each area school district. Students also receive a DARE workbook that offers a number of educational activities. DARE lessons are designed to help children build self-esteem, manage stress, foresee behavioral consequences, resist pro-drug messages in the media and identify alternatives to drug use.
There are some local residents who say they don't feel the DARE program makes a difference in the lives of children. Often, those individuals point to the fact that there are still local teenagers using drugs and alcohol. I believe that those who see the program this way are missing the bigger picture.
I have been to numerous DARE graduation ceremonies. At many of those events, I have heard both Kammerlohr and Stockton say that if the DARE program makes an impact in just one child's life it has served its purpose. Isn't this true? If just one student has the courage to say "no" to drugs, alcohol or smoking, hasn't the program succeeded? When you consider that nearly 200 sixth graders across the county complete the DARE program each year, isn't it plausible to say that more than one child will be positively impacted by the program?
It is wonderful that one local community member saw the DARE program's worth but couldn't more area residents step forward to help fund this valuable program? According to the 2010 Census there are more than 35,000 individuals living in Barry County. If just one-10th of the county's population committed just 25 cents to the program each month, we could ensure the DARE program continues long after funds received from one generous donor have been depleted.
Thank you to the anonymous donor who saw the value of the county-wide DARE program. Maybe others will follow your example and choose to support the program in the future.