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Nerf battles, with light saber combat matches

WATKINS GLEN--Although the use of marijuana and prescription drugs among teens in Schuyler County decreased from 2013 to 2015, alcohol use is on the rise and surpasses national averages for students in grades eight, 10, and 12. That fact is according to the Schuyler County Coalition of Underage Drinking and Drugs (SCCUDD and was the impetus behind an event Saturday, May 4 at Watkins Glen high school, according to Ward Brower, project coordinator for SCCUDD.
The event was planned by members of Schuyler Teens Against Alcohol, Nicotine, and Other Drugs (STAND), the youth committee of SCCUDD. According to Brower, they wanted to offer an event that would give students a healthy alternative for a Saturday night.
"Every child is at risk when it comes to substance abuse," said Brower. "Yes, yours too. It doesn't discriminate. There are no socioeconomic divides. No political divides. We need to have options for kids so they know what's out there, and they know they don't have to fall prey to negative influences."
The Star Wars themed event, May the 4th Be with You, was open to Schuyler County teens in grades seven through 12. Attendees were invited to participate in a Nerf battle, practice light saber combat and speak with representatives of various Schuyler County organizations with programs for teens. Lake Country Players shared information about upcoming productions and invited students to participate. Watkins Glen International donated prizes for several raffles.
Alex Richmond, owner of Quest Adventure Gaming, donated the grand prize, a gift certificate for a private escape room experience. Richmond teaches at the school and describes the stories he hears about substance abuse as "heartbreaking and horrifying."
"Events like this help to break the cycle of substance abuse and show students that they have options," said Richmond. "We're trying to provide more alternatives in Schuyler County for teens to do. That's one of the reasons Quest came into being."
Many of the participants came to the event as part of a team. The first two teams to take the floor in the nerf battle were the Clean-Up crew from Odessa and the Sharp Shooters from Watkins Glen. After suiting up in protective gear, the students raced around the gymnasium in the field house, taking cover behind obstacles as they worked to tag out members of the opposing team with nerf-ammo.
For the contest, Team STAND won the grand prize (experience at Quest Adventure). Team members included Amber Updike, Dominick Glerum, Gabe Grover, Aidan Thurston and Skye Cummings. Some 35 people participated in the evening event.
Those not participating in the nerf battle could work with Jeremy Keller, instructor at Ludosport Finger Lakes Academy in Horseheads, for an introduction to light saber combat. Ludosport is an internationally recognized martial art, based on sword fighting, but executed with light sabers, according to Keller.
"The world is a different place than it was when I was growing up," said Keller. "I try to get kids away from video games and get people--kids and adults--up and around and enjoying themselves."
SCCUDD has approximately 50 members. The full group meets every other month. Committees meet monthly. STAND has approximately 20 members. According to Brower, the organization welcomes new members. To learn more, contact the Schuyler County Department of Health at 607-535-8140.

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