On June 13 in Middletown’s Thrall Park Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) had a clear message: enjoy the day. Police officers were everywhere, some in uniform, others in the bright yellow D.A.R.E. t-shirt.
Local businesses showed their support with booths that offered healthy snacks or fun activities. ShopRite had two booths, one giving out cool, crispy apples. Middletown’s K-9 Unit introduced two of their dogs, 10-year-old German Shepherd Kilo and 15-month-old Belgian Malinois Gambit. One popular booth was the Middletown Teachers Association that gave free ice cream to all comers.
Police officer Jacqueline Welch who was in charge of the event was everywhere, mingling with parents and kids. She explained why the police department puts on this event: “”for the community. We want the kids to have fun and learn about fun, healthy activities, healthy snacks, and have a fun day in the park.”
Superintendent of the Middletown Recreation Department Christine Brinckerhoff said this was a good way to see policemen in a positive light. “Kids learn that the police are their friends. They are here to help them, not here in just a negative situation. They serve as good role models.”
Fit2Fight Taekwondo Master Helen Stehlik, a 4th degree black belt, gave a demonstration on kids’ self-defense. Her demonstration during the day is “to show how kids can be empowered and defend themselves.” Stehlik strongly believes training in martial arts can give kids confidence and self-esteem. She has passed on her skills to her own children. Emily, Sarah, and Aiden are all black belts.
Officer Welch was certified as a D.A.R.E. instructor in 2009 and presents the program to over 500 5th grade students each year. Core activities in the state program include school safety, internet safety, drug legalization and student drug use, community safety, bullying: awareness, education and prevention.
The program’s key message is teaching students good decision-making skills to help them lead safe and healthy lives.