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Italian Feast fundraiser for Play It Safe program in Ocean City

(Oct. 11, 2013) Play It Safe is gearing up for its 25th year with its annual Italian Feast Benefit and Silent Auction, Monday, Oct. 14. at Hall’s Restaurant on 60th Street.

The annual all-you-can-eat buffet dinner from 4-7 p.m. is one of two major fundraising events for Play It Safe, a project that encourages high school graduates to make informed, healthy choices to have fun without using alcohol and drugs during their stay in Ocean City.

“This project not only benefits the high school seniors who visit Ocean City, but it’s a great benefit to Ocean City as well,” said Donna Greenwood, chairwoman of the Ocean City Drug and Alcohol Abuse Prevention Committee and Play It Safe co-organizer. “If we keep these kids entertained, it’s keeping them off the streets.”

Each summer, Play It Safe provides around 50 drug- and alcohol-free activities free to recent graduates in the city, Greenwood said.

Despite rainy conditions early this summer, the program hosted almost 8,800 graduates this May 28 through June 14. They participated in activities such as kayaking and paddle boarding, paintball, basketball, rock climbing and karaoke.

“It went very well,” Greenwood said. “It was just under 10,000 kids that came to us and attended the events (and) had a good time.”

Highlights of the annual program include a trip to Splash Mount Water Park, beach volleyball tournaments, basketball games at Northside Park and miniature golf, she said.  Since its inception 24 summers ago, approximately 160,000 teenagers have signed up for Play It Safe’s free activities.

In all, the program costs between $25,000 and $30,000 each year, Greenwood said, including the free activities for recent graduates and printing information pamphlets for the teens.

The funds are raised through letters of solicitation, a miniature golf tournament, a city grant and a grant from the Governor’s Office of Crime Control & Prevention, along with the Italian Feast, she said.

The feast is “our biggest actual fundraiser that we have other than the solicitation,” Greenwood said. “The silent auction… brings in a lot of money to us, too. We have a lot of really nice items on the silent auction list.”

Those include gift certificates to local businesses such as Starbucks, Applebee’s, Seacrets and Jiffy Lube; an 18-inch strand of freshwater pearls from the Treasure Chest; a Vera Bradley purse; gift baskets; and sports memorabilia from local teams including the Ravens, Redskins and Orioles.

Last year, several hundred people came to the all-you-can-eat pasta and Italian food buffet, donated by the Hall family, Greenwood said.

Of the Halls she said, “They have been extremely generous.” The Italian Feast raised several thousand dollars for the Play It Safe program last year, Greenwood said.

Tickets to the Italian Feast cost $12 for adults and $5 for children ages 4-9 and will be sold at the door. Children under 4 get in free.

To learn more about the Play It Safe campaign, visit www.playitsafeoceancity.com.

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