JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Kids picked up bats and took a swing this weekend to support the Craighead County Sheriff's Department DARE program.
The 19th annual RAID (Residents Against Illegal Drugs) Supports DARE Softball Tournament took place April 20 and 21.
Deputy Sheriff and DARE officer for the Craighead County Sheriff's Department, Jamey Carter, said they couldn't bring the DARE program into classrooms without the public's help.
"This annual tournament is essential," Carter said. "Without this tournament, I would have to go out and garner all the support and all the donations to fund the DARE program. With this tournament, they fund the DARE program for the entire year. This means I can spend more time in the classroom and more time with the education part of the DARE program."
Lt. David Bailey said drugs are a problem that has to be addressed now.
"It's a huge epidemic in our country," Bailey said. "What's going on with drugs and drug abuse. And if the children are taught that on the front end maybe we can keep them away from it. And the key thing is just say no."
Carter said fundraising events like the tournament allow him to spend more time with more kids.
"I have just finished my sixth year with the DARE program," Carter said. "With me not having to spend so much time in the community trying to gather support and funds I was able to double the program. It was primarily in 5th grade and five schools in Craighead County where we do the program at. I was able to expand it to the 7th grade and so now I do it with 7th graders, as well."
Carter said they try to make sure they arm Craighead County kids with the information they need to protect themselves and their future.
"In 5th grade, the class is just an introduction," Carter said. "It shows the students that these are some of the things that are out in the world and you're about to start seeing these things and we need to get your prepared. So, we basically talk about what's called the gateway drugs like tobacco and alcohol and we kind of hit that pretty heavy toward the first part of the program. Then we start talking to them about making good decisions. Every lesson is geared around them making a good decision in something small and once they get a grasp of that we throw in a drug scenario and say why can't that work in that situation. And you can see the light bulbs going off. So, it's very vital in teaching them that these things are out there, they're going to come up against them and they better be prepared. And we just give them the tools to prepare them to say no and to resist those things."
Bailey said support from the community has been outstanding.
"The community has been great," Bailey said. "Anytime we go anywhere and ask anybody for anything they always help us out. But we felt that be getting out here with the tournament and raising these proceeds ourselves. It would mean more to the children if we were out here and getting to intermingle. Our DARE officer gets to meet the children and it's been a great experience."
Carter said the kids really seem to respond to the program.
"The kids really seem to like the way the program is taught," Carter said. "It's taught different than any other subject in school. We make the kids laugh, but we teach them at the same time. The kids really enjoy it. They pay attention. I even give them a test at the end of the program. Every single class of the 21 fifth grade classes I taught the program in had an average of over 93 in each class. So, the kids are really retaining what I teach them in the classroom."
Carter said the DARE program is reaching all the schools.
"Every school in Craighead County is covered by the DARE program," Carter said. "Every 5th grader that goes to a school inside Craighead County gets DARE. The five schools outside the city of Jonesboro that I cover also get it in the 7th grade as well. It's so important because someone is there telling them and explaining to them what's going to happen and how bad these things are. And without the education and knowing how bad it is, they would probably try it. So, giving them the education and the knowledge that these things are bad for you can curb the desire from some of those students ever trying it because they don't want those bad things to happen."
Carter said he wants to reach every child in Craighead County.
"Some say if I can prevent one person it's a success," Carter said. "But I don't want to prevent just one person. I want to prevent them all from it. If I do my job well enough and good enough I could put a lot of the drug task force out of business and the drug dealers out of business. And so, that's my goal. I want to reach them all. Not just one."
There were 32 ball teams and over 300 people who participated in the tournament.
Carter said he sees around 1,200 students a year in the schools the program is currently in.
All proceeds made from the tournament go to fund the DARE program.
For more information about the Craighead County Sheriff's Department DARE program, click here.