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Happy 20th Birthday to the Timmins Police D.A.R.E. Program

Posted on February 2, 2016 by in Canada, Hometown, Ontario

Timmins DARE

The Timmins Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program celebrated its 20th birthday on Saturday to great fanfare. The program mascot Daren the Lion had a birthday party at the Timmins Public Library to mark the occasion and 40 children from the city attended the event complete with story time, crafts, pizza and cake.

Click the image for full view.

20 years of DARE program in Timmins

It was a full-house at the Timmins Public Library on Saturday afternoon as 40 youngsters celebrated Daren the DARE Lion’s 20th birthday.

The lion is the mascot for the Timmins Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program, which also marked 20 years of serving the community at the event on Jan. 30.

“Twenty years in anything is quite the achievement, so we’re proud of that,” said Const. Rick Lemieux, the Timmins Police DARE officer. “We had 40 spaces available, and 40 kids showed up, so it’s a huge success; they’re having a blast.”

Many of the children were in Grade 2 or Grade 3, and the birthday party acted as a fun way to introduce them to the program in advance of being taught the DARE curriculum in Grade 6.

“Most of these kids have not taken the program yet, so these are all future graduates of DARE,” said Francine Denis, the newest member of the DARE board and the library’s early child education advisor. “So by bringing it to the younger kids, they realize that DARE is in the community.”

The children listened to stories about anti-bullying, made Daren the Lion-themed crafts and, of course, celebrated the mascot’s birthday with cake and a singing of the birthday song.

“I worked a month on it trying to get it all ready, and here we are today, and it’s a full house, so I’m very happy about that,” Denis said. “I strongly believe that literacy helps kids make good choices in life and doing this educates them on DARE, as well.”

Lemieux agrees that the partnership between the library and the DARE program is a good match.

“Our program is about achieving your dreams and goals, and that comes from literacy, going to school, learning to read, that kind of thing,” he said. “We even tell them in Grade 8 that if you want to be a police officer, a reporter, a teacher, you have to work for it. You have to do your homework; you have to read, and all of that.”

In its first two decades in Timmins, Lemieux said that the program has helped many local kids to be successful and avoid falling into the trappings of drugs and alcohol.

Many of the students he taught when DARE first came to Timmins are now in their mid-twenties and often check in with their former teacher to let them know how they’re doing.

“I still get feedback from them saying, ‘Const. Rick, you touched my life back then, and I’m making good choices because of you and my parents, so thank you,’” he said. “Having that sort of feedback makes me want to keep doing this because I know it’s reaching some of the kids.”

One of those students (who took the DARE program a decade ago) is now on the path to becoming a doctor; he shared.

“In her family there was a lot of drugs, alcohol, and violence,” he explained, “and DARE class showed her that she didn’t have to live like that, she had goals and dreams and was going to rise above it all.”

When the student shared her story with him and his wife, Lemieux said they were both moved to tears by what she had accomplished.

And being able to see his students grow up to live their dreams is what brings him back to work year after year.

“I have a passion for this, I love doing it, and if I could do it for the rest of my career I’d do it in an instant because it’s just a fun, positive thing,” he said.

Unfortunately, not all children can be reached by the program.

Lemieux said that he will often have former students approach him, lamenting that they “should have listened” to what was being taught in the class.

While he wishes, he could help every student he teaches, the best he can do is give them the tools they need to think things through for themselves.

And, perhaps more importantly, to learn from their mistakes.

“You’re going to make mistakes, everybody does, but it’s not OK to make the same mistake twice,” he explained. “We have the model, ‘Define, Assess, Respond, Evaluate,’ so whenever you respond to a situation, we teach them always to evaluate it and say, ‘Was that the right choice? Am I going to do the same thing the next time?’ That way you learn.”

As for the future of the program here in Timmins, Lemieux is looking forward to at least another decade of service — joking that he’s due for retirement in 14 years.

DARE is also welcoming a new addition to its team this spring, and the new officer will be teaching the French schools in the area while Lemieux will continue working with the English schools.

“He’s so excited to be a part of the program,” Lemieux shared. “We’ll be teaching all the schools in Timmins, so it’s going to be awesome.”

This was originally published on Timmins Press.

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