Pubdate: Mon, 01 Feb 2016
Source: Daily Press, The (CN ON)
Copyright: 2016 Sun Media
Author: Sarah Moore
Page: A1


It was a full-house at the Timmins Public Library on Saturday
afternoon as 40 youngsters celebrated Daren the DARE Lion's 20th birthday.

The lion is the mascot for the Timmins Drug Abuse Resistance Education
(DARE) program, which also marked 20 years of serving the community at
the event on Jan. 30.

"Twenty years in anything is quite the achievement, so we're proud of
that," said Const. Rick Lemieux, the Timmins Police DARE officer. "We
had 40 spaces available, and 40 kids showed up, so it's a huge
success; they're having a blast."

Many of the children were in Grade 2 or Grade 3, and the birthday
party acted as a fun way to introduce them to the program in advance
of being taught the DARE curriculum in Grade 6.

"Most of these kids have not taken the program yet, so these are all
future graduates of DARE," said Francine Denis, the newest member of
the DARE board and the library's early child education advisor. "So by
bringing it to the younger kids, they realize that DARE is in the 

The children listened to stories about anti-bullying, made Daren the
Lion-themed crafts and, of course, celebrated the mascot's birthday
with cake and a singing of the birthday song. "I worked a month on it
trying to get it all ready, and here we are today, and it's a full
house, so I'm very happy about that," Denis said. "I strongly believe
that literacy helps kids make good choices in life and doing this
educates them on DARE, as well."

Lemieux agrees that the partnership between the library and the DARE
program is a good match.

"Our program is about achieving your dreams and goals, and that comes
from literacy, going to school, learning to read, that kind of thing,"
he said. "We even tell them in Grade 8 that if you want to be a police
officer, a reporter, a teacher, you have to work for it. You have to
do your homework; you have to read, and all of that."

In its first two decades in Timmins, Lemieux said that the program has
helped many local kids to be successful and avoid falling into the
trappings of drugs and alcohol.

Many of the students he taught when DARE first came to Timmins are now
in their mid-twenties and often check in with their former teacher to
let them know how they're doing.

"I still get feedback from them saying, 'Const. Rick, you touched my
life back then, and I'm making good choices because of you and my
parents, so thank you,'" he said. "Having that sort of feedback makes
me want to keep doing this because I know it's reaching some of the

One of those students (who took the DARE program a decade ago) is now
on the path to becoming a doctor; he shared.

"In her family there was a lot of drugs, alcohol, and violence," he
explained, "and DARE class showed her that she didn't have to live
like that, she had goals and dreams and was going to rise above it

When the student shared her story with him and his wife, Lemieux said
they were both moved to tears by what she had accomplished.

And being able to see his students grow up to live their dreams is
what brings him back to work year after year.

"I have a passion for this, I love doing it, and if I could do it for
the rest of my career I'd do it in an instant because it's just a fun,
positive thing," he said.

Unfortunately, not all children can be reached by the

Lemieux said that he will often have former students approach him,
lamenting that they "should have listened" to what was being taught in
the class.

While he wishes, he could help every student he teaches, the best he
can do is give them the tools they need to think things through for

And, perhaps more importantly, to learn from their

"You're going to make mistakes, everybody does, but it's not OK to
make the same mistake twice," he explained.

"We have the model, 'Define, Assess, Respond, Evaluate,' so whenever
you respond to a situation, we teach them always to evaluate it and
say, ' Was that the right choice? Am I going to do the same thing the
next time?' That way you learn."

As for the future of the program here in Timmins, Lemieux is looking
forward to at least another decade of service - joking that he's due
for retirement in 14 years.

DARE is also welcoming a new addition to its team this spring, and the
new officer will be teaching the French schools in the area while
Lemieux will continue working with the English schools.

"He's so excited to be a part of the program," Lemieux shared. "We'll
be teaching all the schools in Timmins, so it's going to be awesome."
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