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Play It Safe 2014 kicked off Tuesday, events begin Sat.

(May 30, 2014) Play It Safe, a program that provides high school graduates with free organized, alcohol- and drug-free activities in June, kicked off its 25th season this week.

Play It Safe 2014 officially began Tuesday, with a breakfast at Hall’s Restaurant on 60th Street.

“It’s our 25th year of working to keep young people who visit Ocean City safe,” said Donna Greenwood, chairwoman of the Ocean City Drug and Alcohol Abuse Prevention Committee and a Play It Safe volunteer. “It’s hard to believe how the time has flown and how the program has grown.”

“It’s been a very successful 25 years,” added Mayor Rick Meehan. “To be able to put a program such as this together and maintain it for 25 years is outstanding.”

The first events of the 2014 season are scheduled to get under way Saturday. Graduates will have the opportunity to tie-dye T-shirts Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon at the Ocean City Center for the Arts on 94th Street, bayside. That afternoon at 2 p.m., teens (the first 25 boys and 25 girls) can participate in a pizza-eating contest at Pizza Tugos in West Ocean City.

Play It Safe events will run through June 17.

The Worcester County Health Department and Ocean City Drug and Alcohol Abuse Prevention Committee have coordinated the 2014 program with support from the Town of Ocean City, Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention, Maryland Network of Prevention Coordinators and local businesses and organizations.

Approximately 50 events are planned this summer, including kayak relays, basketball, tennis, pizza-eating contests, dance parties, dodgeball, stand-up paddle boarding, karaoke, moonlight bowling, laser tag, beach volleyball, indoor and outdoor miniature golf and T-shirt tie-dying.

Participants can also visit Splash Mountain Water Park at Jolly Roger on 30th Street and ride the Tidal Wave roller coaster at Trimper’s Rides and Amusements.

During the different events, participants may pick up a wristband that allows them to ride the resort bus for free.

Graduates will also receive T-shirts, food, drinks, giveaways and prizes at competitive events. Prizes have been donated by local businesses.

The Play It Safe program is an effort to prevent the abuse of alcohol and other drugs by high school-aged visitors to the resort. It’s designed to encourage recent high school graduates to make informed, healthy choices while having responsible fun without the use of drugs and alcohol.

Meehan said many of the graduates coming to Ocean City, who he called “future leaders of America,” will be away from home for the first time. In the world today, they will face many challenges and temptations, which is another reason why Play It Safe is so beneficial.

Despite nine events canceled because of rain last year, a total of 8,788 graduates participated in Play It Safe. Since its inception, “156,933 youth have been kept safe because of this project over the years,” said Marty Pusey, Worcester County Health Department director of Prevention Services. She was instrumental in starting the program in Ocean City.

In addition to the activities, Passport to Fun booklets have been distributed around town. These booklets contain the Play It Safe calendar of events, coupons to use at businesses in Ocean City and information on how to have a safe time while in town.

Graduates may find more information about Play It Safe at www.playitsafeoceancity.com, by calling the Worcester County Health Department at 410-632-1100 or by attending an event.

Since last year, the Web site has recorded more than 1 million hits, according to Bill Wheatley, who maintains the site. Currently, it is averaging about 40,000 hits per day.

On Facebook, search “Play It Safe Ocean City.” Anyone interested in volunteering during a Play It Safe event should contact Norma Simmons at the Ocean City Recreation and Parks Department, 410-250-0125.

Welcoming guests to the 2014 Play It Safe kickoff breakfast at Hall’s Restaurant on 60th Street, standing from left, are Health Educator, Jackie Lensch; AOD Prevention Coordinator, David Baker; Worcester County Health Department Director of Prevention Services Marty Pusey; OC Drug & Alcohol Abuse Prevention Committee Chairwoman Donna Greenwood and Vice Chairman, Al “Hondo” Handy, and seated, Secretary, Bev Townsend and Treasurer Karen Johnson.

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