OCEAN CITY – The 23rd Annual Play It Safe campaign took place last summer and this week Ocean City Drug and Alcohol Abuse Prevention Committee Chair Donna Greenwood presented a status report.
The mission of Play It Safe is to encourage high school graduates coming to the beach to make informed, healthy choices while having responsible fun without the use of alcohol and other drugs
In 1989, then-Gov. William Donald Schaefer asked Ocean City Mayor Roland Powell to set up a committee to fight the abuse of alcohol and other drugs in our community and the Ocean City Drug and Alcohol Abuse Prevention Committee was born.
“Play It Safe in Ocean City began as a very small part of that committee and on a very small scale,” Greenwood said.
Every year the committee prints Play It Safe booklets and brochures to prepare high school graduates for the trip to Ocean City to celebrate as well as events and activities to participate in while in town.
At first the booklet had a maximum of eight pages and only a couple of events were scheduled. Now the booklet is up to 36 pages and the program has had up to 60 events scheduled.
Greenwood explained that due to a decrease in state funding the publication of the Play It Safe booklet has been cut back from 75,000 copies being distributed across the state to 30,000 being distributed to hotels, motels and restaurants within Ocean City.
Due to weather, among other things, Play It Safe’s number of participants decreased this year to 8,620. Last year, there were 11,645 participants. However, last year there was 16 states represented and this year there were 23.
With two events canceled due to weather, Splash Mountain and beach volleyball, there were 58 planned events carried out, including karaoke, indoor miniature golf, windsurfing, kayaking, midnight bowling, basketball, outdoor mini golf, paintball, tennis, laser tag, rock climbing, pancake and pizza eating contests, dodge ball and two tye dye t-shirt design events.
There were over 300 businesses, organizations, and individuals contribute to the program in money and prizes, and over 100 volunteers gave over 736 hours of service to Play It Safe in 2012, according to Greenwood’s report.
Play It Safe’s website, www.playitsafeoceancity.com, received about 700,000 hits this year. The busiest month was in June with 250,000 hits on the website, with around 95,000 in May, and even 41,000 hits in July when the event was over, Greenwood said.
“We are extremely appreciative of the support the town gives to us. Without that partnership, the project would not be possible,” Greenwood said.
This year the Ocean City Police Department created a video, What Should Seniors Do, that showed many of Ocean City’s officials and employees giving helpful hints to high school graduates on how to enjoy their time in town safely.
“That was very well received and we hope to do it again next year,” said Greenwood, who added this time around OCPD hopes to share it with school resource officers who will then share it with the graduates and their parents before they come here.
Greenwood added for the last couple of years the town has provided free bus rides to Play It Safe participants and that alone has been a relief not only for the grads for the parents as well.
“We know what we’re offering is not going to eliminate all of the bad behavior … but we are hoping to make a positive experience for everyone,” Greenwood said.
Mayor Rick Meehan clarified that although the committee thinks it wouldn’t be able to complete the program without the partnership with the town, the town couldn’t get through Senior Week without the support of Play It Safe.
“It has become an event that generations have enjoyed now,” the mayor said. “When you go over 23 years, I am sure we have children of those that have come here when they have graduated … so it has become a tradition here in Ocean City.”
On Monday, Oct. 8, from 4-7 p.m., an Italian Feast & Silent Auction will be held at Hall’s Restaurant to benefit Play It Safe 2013. Tickets are $12 at the door with Hall’s Restaurant donating all proceeds to next year’s campaign.