SOMERSET, Pa. – It’s rare to find a beer can littered at Laurel Ridge or Kooser State park, said Ashley Barry, Bureau of State Parks environmental education specialist.
“State parks are trying to offer activities other than drugs and alcohol and trouble you can get into,” she said. “There are a million recreational opportunities. Exploring state parks is a great outlet for kids.”
Barry and more than a dozen Somerset County education and recreation representatives were present at Somerset Area High School’s Red Ribbon event Saturday to show the county’s youths ways to steer their energy away from substance abuse.
Two years ago, more than 100 students attended the first Red Ribbon Saturday, which was held outside, pre-pandemic, organizers said.
This year, about 30 people participated in the event’s free 5K walk/run, and an additional 30 students from Somerset County schools participated in a social event at the Somerset Area High School gymnasium.
The children played games and enjoyed music provided by the DJs of Showtime Entertainment Services.
Although it was scheduled to be held outdoors, rainy weather forced most of Saturday’s activities indoors to the gymnasium.
The event was sponsored by Somerset County Drug-Free Communities and UPMC Western Behavioral Health at Twin Lakes to raise awareness of the county’s campaign.
Organizations including the Somerset County Library and 4-H club participated.
“We know addiction hurts the entire community,” said Ruthie Romesburg, a UPMC prevention education specialist. “This is about showing the alternative activities people have to engage in.”