YORKTOWN, N.Y. – Save-a-Life Day, an event organized by the Alliance for Safe Kids, is an annual reminder that battles against bullying, substance abuse and mental health don’t have to be fought alone.
Held Sunday, March 3, at Yorktown High School, this year’s Save-a-Life Day drew dozens of vendors and exhibitors who shared useful information with the hundreds of parents and teens in attendance.
Some of the programs for teens included: “The Dating Game: Building Healthy Relationships,” “It’s Just a House Party: Q&A with the Yorktown Police Department,” and “Mindfulness: Managing Stress and Anxiety.”
There were also programs for adults: “Understanding and Supporting Youth Mental Health” and “Hidden in Plain Sight.”
The latter program, led by Kiara Loughran and Danielle Demar, student assistance service counselors at Yorktown High School and Walter Panas High School, respectively, showed parents how crafty their teenage kids could be.
Recently at a local house party, for example, parents were doing their due diligence by checking the bags of every person who arrived. While no drugs or alcohol were found, the parents did notice an unusually large number of tampons. As it turns out, the parents learned by searching the internet, the teens were concealing alcohol in tampon-shaped flasks.
Thanks to e-cigarettes such as JUUL, nicotine is another popular substance that has become easy for teens to conceal. Because they require no lighters or ashtrays, they are also more convenient to use than traditional cigarettes. Despite their growing popularity, many users remain unaware of the dangers associated with vaping, the counselors said.
“That’s very sad to me that this generation has been the guinea pig, but hopefully the kids that are coming up behind them will hear this message and hopefully that will start to bring down the numbers,” Loughran said.
Save-a-Life Day started off in the high school theater. There, John Morello, an actor, comedian and motivational speaker, performed his one-man show, “Dirt,” which tackles issues of substance abuse, bullying and self-esteem. Morello portrayed a half-dozen characters during the hour-long performance.
“The reason why I wrote this show is because, when I was 11, I lost my oldest brother to a drunk driver,” Morello said. Years later, his other brother died from a drug overdose.
“I never became an addict. Unfortunately, my brother did,” Morello said. “I was lucky. I had this teacher at my school who really connected with me. He got me to do theater.”
Once he found his calling, Morello said, “My desire to want to be high, my desire to want to be drunk started to fade out of my life.”
Morello also focused part of his speech on caregivers. With all the work they do for others, Morello said, it’s easy for caregivers to forget about themselves.
“It’s really easy to not take good care of ourselves,” he said. “So, I hope that you love yourself and do good things for yourself as much as you do for [other people].”
The Yorktown-based Alliance for Safe Kids, founded in 2002, was incorporated as a nonprofit organization in 2006. It aims to bring all sectors of the community together to act as a “safety net” for the youth. ASK also promotes awareness and prevention of substance use/abuse and other destructive behaviors.
Learn more at allianceforsafekids.org. ASK is also on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.