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Wareham registrants, counselors, School Resource Officer and representatives of the Wareham-New Bedford Lodge of Elks assemble for a photograph Monday morning prior to departing to participate in this week’s D.A.R.E. camp in Whitman. Wicked Local Photo/Chris Shott.

WAREHAM, MA – There was a buzz in the air and a few more vehicles than usual in the Town Hall/Multi-Service Center parking lot Monday morning.

That was because Monday marked the first of five days for 19 fortunate Wareham boys and girls at the 22nd annual Drug and Alcohol Resistance Education Summer Program sponsored by the office of Plymouth County District Attorney Timothy J. Cruz at Whitman-Hanson Regional High School in Whitman. The youngsters – entering either Grade 5 or Grade 6 next month – were selected for the camp by Officer Karl Baptiste, Wareham’s School Resource Officer, for the camp along with several teenagers who will serve this week as counselors at the camp, which attracts hundreds of similarly aged youths from communities throughout the county.

All camp participants are being transported daily by school bus to and from the same parking lot in Wareham for six hours of activities in Whitman that are designed to change their lives. According to Cruz’ website (www.mass.gov/daplymouth) the D.A.R.E. Camp “is a one-of-a-kind experience that blends cultural diversity, education, and fun … Students spend the week learning skills to resist alcohol, tobacco, illegal drugs, and violence. They are surrounded by positive role models who are committed to making the experience as rewarding as possible.”

This week’s campers from Wareham include Jaqari Aguste, Sage Baptiste, Seamus Braley, Ayden Carrion, Nathan Conlon, Kevin Donahue, Ryan Elicier, Victoria Flaherty, Kendall Fortune, Will Hesse, Alexandria James, Kaelyn Larkin, Cody Mazzoli, Shane Mazzoli, Haylee McDonald, Rija Rakotoarimanitra-Bunting, Malachi Samuels, Robert Spenard and Arielle Troupe.

Campers began arriving in the parking lot in Wareham a little past 7 a.m. Monday and were shortly joined by Baptiste and three representatives of the Wareham-New Bedford Lodge of Elks No. 73 – Donna Allen, Terri Scott and Ted Hatch – to see off the campers. The Elks Lodge successfully secured grant funds again this year to pay for registration fees and transportation for all Wareham participants.

After checking in everyone and handing out camp T-shirts, Baptiste and the rest of the Wareham delegation departed to waves from several parents in the parking lot.

The D.A.R.E. Camp teaches young people leadership and team-building skills, while also enhancing interactions and dialogues on critical contemporary issues, including counteracting peer pressure. A typical day at the camp includes learning opportunities, recreational activities, arts and crafts, sports and games, lunch (with food provided by local vendors and businesses) and snack breaks.

Campers are separated into teams, commonly comprised of residents of different communities to enhance the social success of the program. The program concludes with a graduation ceremony Friday, which will highlight activities and recorded successes of the week.

According to Wareham Police Chief Kevin Walsh, the D.A.R.E. Summer Program has operated annually in Whitman for more than a decade and specializes in preaching the values of good decision-making in the lives of young people through collaborative activities and interactions with peers from throughout the county.

From Wicked Local Wareham