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Seibert Elementary fifth-grader John Caszajenko, right, leads the pack as Meridian fifth-grader Jilliam Todd, center, and Caszajenko’s classmate Andrew Gilbert follow behind during a bouncy horse race during D.A.R.E. Day on Saturday at Dow Diamond.

Some chose to linger at the bounce house, while others raced inflatable horses or enjoyed a kickball game in the outfield Saturday at Dow Diamond. The games resulted in organized — and happy — chaos during the fourth annual D.A.R.E. Day.

The event was attended by fifth-graders from across the county who were invited to celebrate their graduation from the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program, taught in schools by Midland Police Officers Jeremy Davis, Dan Keeler, Mark Klein and Jai Mahabir, as well as Midland County Sheriff’s Deputies Jason Brandt and Brandan Hodges.

“You deserve this day,” Midland Police Chief Clifford Block said in addressing the students and parents who attended the afternoon. He pointed out the day was to honor the students’ commitment to making good choices.

“It’s a great partnership between Midland Project D.A.R.E. and the Great Lakes Loons staff,” Mahabir said. “It’s a great way to give back to our graduates.”

Midland County Sheriff’s Capt. Mike Goodall and Block both challenged the students to use what they learned in the program to help them make good choices, not only while in school, but also as adults.

Marrigan Cody and Olivia Rey, who attend Adams Elementary, took a break from playing on the inflatable horses to tell about their favorite parts of D.A.R.E. Both enjoyed the graduation ceremony, as well as the skits during which students taught about what they learned.

“We did a song and some questions,” Cody said, her excitement level high as she looked forward to attending the Loons game later that night.

Brennan McGraw, a Woodcrest fifth-grader, was breathless after running over to talk to Lou E. Loon on the outfield, but he still had enough spark left to chat about what he learned.

Mahabir was his D.A.R.E. instructor, and the lesson he learned was summed up in a quote, “Stay off drugs, kids.”

When asked what he’d say to Mahabir, McGraw replied, “Thanks for being an awesome D.A.R.E. instructor.”

The event included patrol vehicles from each department, as well as the sheriff’s office marine patrol and the police department K9 officer, Tza ‘Yid.

“We’ve grown every year,” Mahabir said, commenting on the number of youths at Dow Diamond. “It’s a free for all.”

In addition to playing games, graduates were treated to free food and a lawn seat to Saturday night’s game, during which students were called onto the field for games in between innings and the entire bunch was recognized for their accomplishment.

Mahabir said the city police have added two new D.A.R.E. instructors, Officers Travis Toth and Paul McDonald. He added this is his fifth year as a school resource officer, and he’s starting to see kids he taught in the fifth grade arrive as freshmen at H.H. Dow High. “I keep their D.A.R.E. essays,” he said with a big smile.

From Midland Daily News

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