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Money for Boys & Girls Clubs a SMART move

July 12, 2006|by MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - The air inside the gym at the Boys & Girls Club of Martinsburg was hot and humid Tuesday, but 7-year-old Adonus Taylor had the "cool" honor of holding the oversized $30,000 check West Virginia Attorney General Darrell V. McGraw Jr. presented to the Eastern Panhandle's three clubs for preventative sexual activity and drug use programs.

"He told me all about it," the Martinsburg youngster's mother, Trisha, said hours later.

In between club activities of roller skating and watching a movie, Taylor was among more than 80 children with whom McGraw briefly visited before presenting the check to Stefani Pierson, executive director of the Boys and Girls Club of the Eastern Panhandle.

"This is probably the biggest check they've ever seen come in at one time," Pierson said.

"The smiles on their faces says it all."

Pierson was smiling, too.

The money announced by McGraw comes from the latest installment in the state's $10 million settlement with Purdue Pharma Inc. over the addictive qualities of the drug OxyContin. Another $2.5 million is expected to be distributed next year, but McGraw declined to predict who would receive it.

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Altogether, $90,000 of the settlement money this year will be awarded to Boys & Girls Clubs across the state, he said.

"I'm just very grateful he has chosen ... to invest in the Boys & Girls Clubs," Pierson said after smiling for a group photograph with the children and McGraw.

The $30,000 will be used to operate SMART Moves programs at all three clubs in the Eastern Panhandle for the coming school year. The money will pay for program staff salaries and incentive prizes for the children, Pierson said.

SMART Moves is a nationally acclaimed comprehensive prevention program that helps young people resist alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use, as well as premature sexual activity.

Though McGraw had the final say on where the settlement money is allocated, he said his decision included input from an internal committee of individuals working in the Attorney General's office. Purdue Pharma also was able to nominate recipients.

McGraw said the pharmaceutical company marketed OxyContin to patients without informing them of the drug's addictive qualities or potency.

The drug also has been abused. When crushed and snorted, users obtain a heroin-like high.

"There has been a recession in OxyContin offenses in the last year or two," McGraw said.

In remarks to the media gathered, McGraw said a presiding circuit court judge in the case wanted the settlement proceeds awarded to drug prevention and day reporting rehabilitation programs, which he said have proven to be effective while also saving taxpayers money spent on imprisonment.

"This is not taxpayer money," McGraw said.

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