Red Ribbon Week leads young lives

NAPPANEE — Students across the country celebrated Red Ribbon Week (Oct. 15 through 18) an initiative to spread the message that drug, alcohol and tobacco use is unhealthy and to encourage children to make the vow to commit to a healthy lifestyle.
All across the Wa-Nee area the message was the same with contests, designated celebration days and fun activities of all kinds for students to celebrate. At Nappanee Elementary School, Officer Brad Balasa from the Nappanee Police Department brought his partner, K9 Hess, to an assembly and gave a demonstration. Fifth graders received another personal demonstrate that will leave a lasting impression as they got to find out what it was like to drive intoxicated wearing impaired-vision goggles and driving a golf cart with Nappanee P.D. Officer Steve Rulli.
Themes of the week included the moniker PAWS with daily statements of commitment being “These Paws Don’t Touch Drugs” (the day where students dressed up in animal prints) and “Pawsitively Drug Free” (during which the kids covered their “paws” with crazy socks) and “A Drug Free Life is Pawsitively Great: (a day where school spirit was shown by wearing Bulldog apparel).
A poster contest was held and winning creations will be displayed on the walls of the NorthWood High School building during prom and graduation to remind older students to stick with their former commitments to remain living a drug, alcohol and tobacco-free lifestyle.
The elementary students that turned them in received a token of appreciation and those that actively participated in all the activities were entered into a drawing to win a special prize.
Nappanee Elementary School’s Office Assistant Jamie Eggers explained the reason the school participates. “The program is an excellent way to encourage open communication about a drug-free lifestyle,” she said.
NES Principal Randy Cripe credits Eggers for the program being so successful. “She has been the driving force behind this charge and has done a great job of encouraging students and families to support this cause,” he said.
Also, during the week of events homeroom classes in grades kindergarten through fifth (450 students) got into the Red Ribbon Week spirit further by competing — trying to collect the most money to be donated to the Animal Welfare League of Kosciusko County. Amongst other things on its donation “wish list” the AWL asked for an iPad to make adoptions a much easier and more efficient effort. When all the donations were tabulated, Mrs. Anita Ward’s class had raised the most money and the total $620, was plenty in which to provide for some of the AWL’s needs by purchasing the iPad. The 26 students in Ward’s class were treated on Halloween to puppy and dog bone-shaped suckers as well as a special visit from Xena, a German Shepherd-mix puppy, brought to school by AWL Executive Director Darla McCammon and AWL Board member Carol Haldewang.
McCammon explained to the children that adopting a dog cost $135 for two-month-old Xena (or for each of her seven siblings) but that the cost included the charge for spaying or neutering the potential pet, for all of its first shots, an identification microchip, starter food, a free 30 days of pet insurance, its first veterinarian visit free, as well as a training DVD, coupons and more.
“There are about 140 animals waiting for adoption at the shelter,” McCammon explained. “We have birds, cats, dogs and we’ve had all kinds. We’ve had Vietnamese Pot-Bellied Pigs, rabbits, Guinea pigs and more.”
Besides finding “forever homes” for the animals, the shelter is always in need of disinfectants and disinfectant wipes, paper towels and tissue, hand sanitizer, and quality pet toys.
“We have a website with our ‘wish list,’” she said. “There is information on there too about the animals and adoptions.”
McCammon said that the iPad is very appreciated because often potential adopting families that meet an orphaned animal at a onsite event (a fair, shopping center, etc.) fall in love, but then are put off by the thought of having to go to the shelter at a later date and time to fill out forms and pay and such for the adoption process.
“Also with the iPad we can take credit cards as payment and show the other animals that are available because we can’t bring them all along,” McCammon added with a smile.
The AWL Kosciusko County chapter has fortunately seen fewer cases of forced euthanasia in the last three years (decreasing by 35 percent) because of increased adoptions, but still AWL representatives want to remind people to spay and neuter their pets so no unwanted animals are brought into the world. Her fourth year working with the AWL McCammon said her mission and the goal of the shelter is not only to rescue and place pets but to also change people’s lives.
“We’re helping people,” she said. “People benefit from being in contact with the animals. We’ve taken animals to camps, the YMCA and to autistic children and seniors at nursing homes in the area. Seeing that interaction, as well as finding the animals a home, is very rewarding.”
Principal Cripe said this was the first year NES has collected money for the AWL. 
“We knew about their campaign from recent coverage of the presentation they did with the Noon Kiwanis Club and from hearing others talk about their cause,” he said. “The theme tied in perfectly with our Red Ribbon Week theme of Paws-itively Drug Free.” 
Cripe said that the school had taken part in many charitable events over the years including the fifth grade classes doing a community service activity each year. 
“They have put together an all-school food drive to collect non-perishable food items for families in need,” Cripe said. “Not only have they collected the food, they have also visited Feed the Children in Elkhart to help pack the food into boxes for delivery to area families. This year they will be working with another organization called Feed My Starving Children. We have also taken part in one-day spirit day activities where students can wear hats or dress according to various themes to collect money for charities.  In recent years, money has gone to support tornado-damaged communities as well as children in Haiti.” 
Cripe said the giving nature of the Nappanee Elementary students, their families and community is natural. “Our community was on the receiving end of this generosity just five years ago following the tornado and in recent years as our local economy has weathered many storms,” he explained. 
“Our families and community have proven to be quite resilient. I think this (fundraising) is just a small way to pay it back and show our support for worthy causes.”
To learn more about the AWL call 574-267-3008.