Pubdate: Thu, 21 Dec 2006
Source: Altoona Mirror (PA)
Copyright: 2006 Altoona Mirror
Author: Phil Ray


HOLLIDAYSBURG -- Someone cares.

That's a message the Blair County Drug Court tries to  convey to 
addicts whose heroin or crack cocaine habits  led them to the wrong 
side of the law.

On Wednesday, a group of Central High School students  showed the 
adults in drug court that someone cares  about their children, as well.

Four high schoolers who belong to Students Against  Destructive 
Decisions and school counselor Stephanie  Thompson brought armloads 
of Christmas gifts to the  courthouse and stacked them on both sides 
of the  hallway outside a large courtroom where drug court was  being held.

The brightly wrapped gifts, which included teddy bears  and toys of 
all sorts, were a strange sight outside a  courtroom, where the most 
destructive side of society  is on display.

The Central students held fundraisers during the year  to buy gifts 
for the children of drug court  participants.

When the court review was completed by mid-morning,  participants 
were directed to pick up the gifts.

"I just think it's good," drug court participant Mike  Elvey said of 
the effort.

In some cases, people can't afford to buy Christmas  gifts for their 
children, Elvey said.

Scott Schultz, who works for the county Adult Parole  and Probation 
Office, said the 50 drug court  participants needed gifts for an 
equal number of  children.

"These kids have suffered through their parents'  addictions. We 
wanted to let them [the kids] know that  someone cares," Schultz said.

He said the effort not only benefitted the children,  but it also 
gave "positive reinforcement" to the  parents, many of whom have 
struggled with their own  self-images.

"There are a lot of unsung heroes out there trying to  help people go 
through what they are going through,"  Schultz said about the Central students.

Thompson said 60 Central students participate in SADD.

The organization used to be known as Students Against  Drunk Driving, 
but the name was changed to reflect that  drunken driving is not the 
only problem that afflicts  young people.

The group encourages students "to make good decisions"  and strives 
to "empower people to do the right things,"  Thompson said.

SADD members do more than talk. Earlier this year, the  group 
undertook a project for the homeless.

On Wednesday, SADD's officers transported more than 50  gifts to the 
courthouse, Thompson said.

A tree of giving contained an ornament representing  each needy 
child. Students removed the ornaments and  purchased gifts for each child.

Earlier in the week, Central students held a huge  gift-wrapping session.

"They were thrilled to get to see the court  proceedings," Thompson said.
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