Civil Air Patrol event promotes alternatives to drug use

Sunday, August 2, 2009

A familiar tune came through the speakers of Charlotte Reed's puppet theater Saturday afternoon, a part of the activities of the Civil Air Patrol Drug Awareness Day.

The tune was Aretha Franklin's "Think," but the lyrics that the puppets "sang" reflected the spirit of the day's activity.

"Think (think, think), think about what you're doing to yourself.

"Think (think, think), don't let tobacco ruin your health."

Reed's puppet shows were one of the many exhibitions at the event held at Arena Park in Cape Girardeau. It was the first year for what Civil Air Patrol Maj. Darryl Spurlock said he hopes will be an annual event.

Spurlock, of Jackson, is commander of the Trail of Tears Squadron of the Civil Air Patrol, which is the civilian auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force. He estimated that by 1:30 p.m. more than 50 children and parents had visited their display at the shelter by the park basketball courts.

"We anticipated a lot more," said Spurlock, "but the threat of rain may have kept some away."

The theme for the day's activities was "Better things to do than drugs," Spurlock said. The CAP allowed youngsters to get involved in science and team-building activities. Visitors could pick up free school supplies and drug awareness literature at the shelter.

Jonathan Fox of Oran, Mo., cadet commander of the local squadron, said one of the popular activities was using lensatic compasses to plot coordinates and locate four clues attached to trees in the park and return them to base.

Search and rescue operations are one of the many functions of the CAP, which also is involved in locating missing children and disaster relief operations. Fox said that recruiting new members was a secondary goal of Saturday's activities. The Trail of Tears Squadron has about 55 members.

"We've gotten several potential recruits from today," Fox said.

Devin Burton, 12, of Cape Girardeau built a homemade rocket using foam, rubber bands, Alka-Seltzer and water. He also participated in some of the team-building exercises, which he thinks will help to discourage him and other youths from getting involved with drugs.

"It would be pretty hard to do things as a team if you're involved with drugs," said Devin, who will be a seventh-grader this year at Central Junior High School and who enjoys playing football.

Emergency vehicles from the Cape Girardeau Fire Department and Cape County Private Ambulance Service were a popular attraction for youngsters, as was the shelter manned by the Southeast Missouri Homeschoolers Co-op, which let children plant a begonia in a small clay pot and take it home.

Reed's puppet show and the performance put on the in morning by Teen Challenge International of Mid-America offered a spiritual approach to discouraging drug abuse. Puppets performed parodies of songs like "Think," as well as original music.

"The songs featured a good, clean message," said Reed, who has been putting on puppet shows for more than 20 years. "Things like the Golden Rule and showing respect to parents."

The Teen Challenge performance in the morning featured skits and a testimony from a former drug abuser. The program is a faith-based ministry that serves men with various addictions.

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