A group of teens dressed in white T-shirts, carrying signs and greeting people along Main Street is a familiar sight this time of year.
Their campaign against drinking and driving is now in its 13th year as student groups from Middletown High School, Mercy High School, Xavier High School and Woodrow Wilson Middle School remind each other and the community about the devastation it can cause.
About 15 bundled-up teens and several more volunteers made the annual “White Out Walk” on Thursday despite the extreme cold.
They know most people are already aware of the dangers of drinking driving, but their campaign is a reminder as people celebrate the holidays, said Mercy junior Caroline Kilian.
“Everyone has been affected by people drinking alcohol at some point in their lives, and the holidays are a hot spot for drinking and driving,” Caroline said. “It’s important to raise awareness about the impact consuming alcohol can have not only on yourself but on your family and friends.”
The event is hosted each year by the Middletown Substance Abuse Prevention Council, and combines the work of more than a dozen local agencies and student groups.
“It’s the reminder not to drink and drive,” said Felicia Goodwine-Vaughters, coordinator of Students Against Destructive Decisions and coordinator of prevention and wellness at the Rushford Center. “We do it during the holiday season, but we want the message to resonate during the entire year.”
She said through the White Out Walk, teens take the opportunity to connect with their peers and the downtown community.
“This is a student voice,” Goodwine-Vaughters said. “They’re used to hearing us, but when it comes from their peers they actually stop and listen. It’s the students wanting to make a difference.”
Through year after year of campaigning against drinking and driving, the network of people involved in the effort continues to grow, she said.
“It brings us as kids together to tell adults and other teenagers to not drink and drive,” said Jayde Shaw, a senior at Middletown High School. “We don’t want our parents to drink and drive, we don’t want anyone else to drink and drive.”
Shaw said she got her license in May, and her parents have her focused on driving responsibly and the need to stay safe despite the dangers other drivers can pose.
Raising awareness about drinking and driving can remind people that the safety of other drivers on the road also depends on each person’s effort to drive responsibly.
Woodrow Wilson Middle School seventh-grader Chad Burlette said the event is also an opportunity to campaign against distracted driving.
Having so many student and community groups involved makes the message more effective, he said.
“We all have different information to share,” Chad said. “We just want everyone else to be safe.”