June 30, 2010

Virginia Guard Counterdrug program makes a difference in kids' lives

By 2nd Lt. J. Erin Jones
Virginia Guard Counterdrug Program

FORT PICKETT, Va. — The Virginia National Guard’s Counterdrug Taskforce is making a big impact on communities in Virginia with its Drug Demand Reduction program, which has events scheduled throughout the summer.


Richael Harvey, a student at Pole Green Elementary School, holds up a fish she caught at the “Hooked on Fishing, Not on Drugs” end-of-the-year event, sponsored by the Virginia National Guard’s Counterdrug Task Force. The mentorship educates kids about the dangers of drug use while teaching them to fish as an alternate activity. (Photo by 2nd Lt. J. Erin Jones, Virginia Guard Counterdrug Program)

DDR is a support program for community-based organizations, said Master Sgt. Daniel Dolen, a community outreach noncommissioned officer with DDR.

“We do drug prevention education, mentorship programs and leadership development,” Dolen said. “Basically anything that will help keep kids off of drugs.

Over the summer DDR will be supporting four camps, working with kids ranging in age from eight to 15 years old.

“At each camp we will be teaching basic leadership skills, respect and military-type discipline,” said Dolan. “We will also be conducting team building exercises, icebreaker activities and a drug prevention presentation.”

During the school year DDR worked with local schools to educate and mentor students through programs such as “Stay on Track” and “Hooked on Fishing, Not on Drugs.”

DDR held an end-of-the-year “Hooked on Fishing, Not on Drugs” event for 15 students from Pole Green, Laurel Meadow and Kersey Creek Elementary Schools, June 25, 2010 at the Courthouse Park in Hanover.
The “Hooked on Fishing, Not on Drugs” concept was started in 1986 went a Florida teenager wrote to the Future Fishermen Foundation about how he chose to go fishing and think through his problems instead of using drugs. Since then, it has become a nationally-recognized program offered in over 30 states, the District of Columbia, American Samoa and Puerto Rico.

Nine years ago DDR decided to adopt “Hooked on Fishing, Not on Drugs” and develop it into a long-term mentorship program.

“We teach them about making good decisions and how alternate activities such as fishing can help keep them away from drugs,” said Dolan.

“I think it’s a good way for the children to learn about the National Guard and the benefits they offer to the community,” said John Hurst III, grandfather of a participating student. “It teaches the children to respect one another, respect the outdoors and respect fishing. Overall it’s just a really good program.”

For the kids it was also an opportunity to learn and grow while having a good time.

“You get to spend quality time with your friends and it’s fun,” said Richael Harvey, a student from Pole Green Elementary, whose father taught her to fish. “I haven’t done much fishing since he died, so it’s good to get back into it,” she said.

“When they’re catching fish you can see they get excited,” said Dolan. “They enjoy what they are doing and hopefully they will turn to this in their down time.”

“Ideally, I would love to see the kids never use drugs,” said Dolan.

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