To all of you who supported the Drug Awareness Resistance Education program for the last 30 years, we bring this message: Thanks for your support from the beginning through the current opioid epidemic.
After three decades, the curtain came down Saturday on DARE Day in Cairo, marking the end of an era in which children in classrooms were taught a basic lesson: Don’t do drugs. DARE Day became an annual field trip to show children the alternatives available to stay away from drugs.
The first DARE Day was held in Greene County in 1992, said organizer Tom Plank, a Greene County sheriff’s deputy at the time. Years later, the event would continue to be organized by Plank and the Cairo Police Department. It has been held at Angelo Canna Town Park since its origin.
Hundreds attended Saturday’s climactic day, which included music and entertainment, food, exhibits, demonstrations, bounce houses and lots of giveaways from local community groups and businesses.
The cost and staffing of the DARE program has been an issue since New York state cut its funding. In May 2008, New York announced it would no longer fund officer training for the DARE program. That was the beginning of the end. DARE as we knew it ceased to exist in many New York counties.
The age of the internet was dawning. When remote learning changed from a luxury to a necessity, DARE seemed like a quaint relic of the Just Say No era.
Did DARE work? Supporters say it kept their children from experimenting with and using drugs throughout their lives. Critics said it took more than education and bounce houses to stem the tidal wave of illegal drugs and point to the opioid crisis as proof.
So, thanks to the parents, police officers, teachers and children who embraced DARE. Their faith in the program kept it going since Bill Clinton was president. Thousands of children are alive today thanks to DARE. And if DARE saved one life, it was well worth it.