Georgetown's kids and teens braved the wet weather Saturday to clean up The Circle and learn about the dangers of smoking during the annual Kick Butts Day.
Ten-year-old Justin Espinol picked up a slip of paper with the word “arsenic,” an ingredient in cigarettes, and then launched a shot at a basketball hoop.
At the same time, 4-year-old Gabriel Steele made a poster, while Devon Reynolds and Dennis Reyes-Melendez, both 9, played a trivia game called, “Bacco.”
Those children and about 50 of their peers spent Saturday learning about the harmful effects of tobacco use during Kick Butts Day at the Georgetown Boys & Girls Club.
The local event was part of a nationwide celebration of youth leadership and activism in the fight against tobacco use first organized by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids in 1995.
“This is the seventh year that we’ve done this,” said Renee Hickman, the program director of the Georgetown Boys & Girls Club. “We partner with the First State Community Action Agency and we received a $5,000 grant from the American Lung Association.”
The children began the day at 8 a.m. by filling trash bags with cigarette butts collected from around The Circle in Georgetown.
“It sounds strange, but they actually really look forward to that part,” Hickman said.
Afterward, the children returned to the Boys & Girls Club on North Race Street, where they broke into age-related groups, each of which participated in a different educational program.
The youngest children made artwork, while others played educational board games, researched the effects of tobacco on the Internet, prepared skits about the dangers of tobacco use or played a basketball game centered on some of the more harmful ingredients in tobacco products.
“Ammonia is the stuff your mom or dad might use to clean the toilet bowl, but it is another ingredient in cigarettes,” Anthony Williams, the club’s technology coordinator, told the older children. “These are the things you need to think about when you think about buying tobacco products.”
Participants also received lunch and a T-shirt that read, “Smoking Leads From One Box to Another.”
At the end of the day, the children gathered together and shared what they had made or learned.
“I learned that smoking can give you lung cancer and tobacco use can make you look really ugly, like cigarettes can turn your fingernails yellow,” 11-year-old Maryah Hagans said. “That’s nasty.”
Georgetown resident Amanda Gilbert, who brought three of her children to the Boys & Girls Club, said the program had an impact on her and her children.
“I’m feeling guilty because I do smoke,” she said. “Now I’m feeling like I’ve got to quit.”