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No Smoking Youth Club holds Family and Friends Day Holiday Festival

December 22, 2007|By DON AINES

HAGERSTOWN ? Medical technology has advanced a lot since the sawbones days of the 19th century, something that impressed Mercedes Campher on a recent field trip to the National Museum of Civil War Medicine in Frederick, Md.

"I thought that place was nasty and scary," the 9-year-old said Saturday during the Holiday Festival of the No Smoking Youth Club. That could also sum up the effects of tobacco use around children, something this club has been trying to educate children and parents about for more than two years.

One of the facts Mercedes and the other club members have been learning is that 430,000 Americans die every year from smoking and tobacco-related illness.

"And 53,000 of those are people who chose not to smoke," said Andy Smith, the club's director.

"I like that we help people stop smoking," said Rykeria Mooney, 11, one of the club's original members.

Toni Smith, 20, now of Atlanta, Ga., formed the club in April 2005 with her father, Andy, who is also president of Brothers United Who Dare to Care. At first the club had about five members, mostly members of a Girl Scout troop that used the computer lab at the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center.

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"I'm really happy to see how much it's grown," Toni Smith said as a roomful of boys and girls and parents were watching an educational video and filling out activity sheets.

Her mother, Mollie Smith, said the club meets every Saturday with two planning meetings, a field trip and a Family and Friends Day. Funding for the club comes from the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene's Minority Outreach and Technical Assistance program, she said

"Everything we do is with the kids' input ... The kids help plan everything," Mollie Smith said.

While the club started with small activities and games to teach them about the perils of smoking, the kids came up with the idea for field trips and also wanted a monthly dance, Andy Smith said. They were instead persuaded that the Family and Friends events would be a better option, helping to spread the message of the club to others, he said.

"Don't Smoke With Kids in the Car" is one of the newest messages the club is trying to get out to parents and other adults, Andy Smith said.

"Some parents just don't know how dangerous it is," he said.

Those wanting more information about the club may call Brothers United Who Dare to Care at 301-393-9290.

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