Protecting youth from an opioid crisis that now annually claims local lives at an alarming rate is challenging at best, but programs like Girls on the Run and i-tri, and the work of non-profits that bring affordable arts and culture into the lives of children, can certainly go a long way toward helping.
Next week, 12 young women from the Bridgehampton School will travel to Hofstra University to compete in a 5K race they have been training for since September through Girls on the Run, a national program the district enrolled in for the first time this year. Girls on the Run is similar to i-tri, an excellent program founded by Theresa Roden, in which adolescent girls train for a triathlon. What these young women will walk away with is more than the pride in finishing a race. They will have forged bonds and connected around social and emotional issues that reach far beyond athletics.
Education, awareness and parental involvement are components that are critical to steer children away from the dark path into addiction. But so too are healthy alternatives learned at a young age that help young adults bond with their peers while they might be shunning advice from well-meaning adults.
On the East End, where many private after-school programs are beyond the financial reach of some parents, and where there can be little to do for adolescents not engaged in school athletic programs, it is critical to support the efforts of programs like Girls on the Run, i-tri and the athletic and arts organizations that ensure every child can participate regardless of their family’s income. It is also incumbent on school districts and municipalities to create new alternatives, and programming, for youth — particularly those who may not be interested in athletics. Saving just one life would be worth the effort.