by Jonathan Weaver
More than 200 Lenape Elementary 5th and 6th graders were ‘recruited’ to the ‘Drugs Kill Dreams’ team by District Magisterial Judge Gary DeComo yesterday.
The students excitedly raised their hands and applauded after seeing the other recognizable athletes, local leaders and emergency responders that have resisted drugs and alcohol.
Those names and faces yesterday included former NFL (and Ford City) Quarterback Gus Frerotte, District Attorney Scott Andreassi and Armstrong County Sheriff Bill Rupert and two of his deputies.
“You have a choice in life: you can follow successful people like this who had discipline, a healthy lifestyle and said no to alcohol, tobacco and other drugs – that’s how they became successful, DeComo said.
“They’re on my team – the ‘Drugs Kill Dreams’ team.”
The drug prevention program is celebrating its 15th year in Armstrong County schools, and Judge DeComo ‘drafted’ a few new star players for yesterday’s 15th anniversary presentation: including Frerotte and former Ford City and U.S. Naval Academy baseball star Paul Lhote.
“We just moved back to Pittsburgh a few years ago, and (this was) really the first opportunity I’ve had to do some charity work – any time I can help (Judge DeComo) out and come to my home, I want to be a part of it,” Frerotte said.
Even though it was also Lhote’s first ‘Drugs Kill Dreams’ event, he was honored to be a part of it.
“This is one of the best programs in Armstrong County – it’s tough out there, and you need to have good leadership, good people in the community. There’s nobody better than Gary DeComo for these kids.”
Judge DeComo was inspired to create and name the program ‘Drugs Kill Dreams’ after looking closely at the winning Manor Township Lions drug prevention poster – drawn by Lenape Elementary graduate Tara (Powers) Maruca.
Maruca – a 2008 Ford City graduate – is now a Life Skills teacher for about two dozen students at Blairsville High School.
“I didn’t think (her poster would inspire) something like this – I hope (Judge DeComo) comes out to our school this year,” Maruca said.
Maruca also received a football autographed by former Pittsburgh Steeler Jack Lambert.
This year’s poster contest winners – including some from Lenape Elementary, as well as other Armstrong schools – were also recognized yesterday. Their drawings will be in this year’s calendar.
Students who signed the youth pledge against using alcohol and other drugs were eligible to receive other Steelers, Penguins and Pirates memorabilia during the assembly.
“If we increase prevention, we’ll decrease addiction and crimes committed by people with an addiction,” Judge DeComo said. “I appreciate the support I get from the community – all these people came out not for me, but for the program.”
Further good behavior and attendance is being encouraged with a raffle to win a football autographed by Pittsburgh Steelers star Wide Receiver Antonio Brown.