WARSAW — Retro Bill, lip-synching cops and a laser light spectacular all marked the end of this year’s DARE program as sixth-graders from nine area elementary schools gathered to celebrate their graduation.
Students from Madison, Claypool, Sacred Heart, Leesburg, Harrison, Washington, Jefferson, Eisenhower and Lincoln, along with their families, teachers and DARE officers, packed the Manahan Orthopaedics Center at Grace College, Winona Lake, Tuesday evening, May 10.
Festivities began with a presentation of the colors by the Fort Wayne Police Department Color Guard-Pipe and Drum Brigade. Detective Brad Kellar rode up to the stage on a police motorcycle, lights, sirens and all, then belted out the national anthem.
Kids leapt to their feet in excitement as keynote speaker Retro Bill, the official international DARE Buddy, made his way to the stage amidst cheers and high-fives. Retro Bill visited Warsaw Schools last fall, bringing his high-energy message of drug resistance and self-esteem.
A lip sync contest ensued between DARE officers Doug Light and Joe Hawn, with Light coming out the winner. Hawn, Light and Retro Bill made a special presentation to Kosciusko County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Hampton, thinking the prosecutor’s office for sponsoring WCS’s DARE program.
Retro Bill recapped his message from earlier this school year, using props like a remote control, an umbrella and a suitcase to drive home his message of not letting others decide one’s happiness. He also urged all students to write down their dreams and goals now and what they need to do to achieve them. He urged them to think big and not hold back.
“If you’re a girl and you want to play in the NFL, be the first to do it,” he said.
He also spoke about the dangers of both legal and illegal drugs, giving an example of an allergic reaction he had as a child to amoxicillin, when just one pill caused his throat to close and his fever to spike to 105 degrees, Fahrenheit.
“If anybody ever tells you, ‘here, just try one; it won’t hurt you,’ don’t let them lie to you,” he said. “‘Everybody tries it once.’ No, they don’t. ‘Everybody smokes weed.’ No, they don’t.”
He also spoke on self-esteem, using a giant remote control to remind kids they can “mute” put-downs and negative talk and a suitcase to illustrate carrying a heavy burden.
DARE grads also received recognition in several categories, including self-esteem, most stickers earned and the top 25 essays.
The evening wrapped up with a laser light show.