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Family's drug-free message wins cash for Milton Middle School

Jan. 29, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

MILTON, W.Va. -- Sometimes it really pays to enter a contest. Just ask Caroline Kinder, 11, a sixth-grade student at Milton Middle School, who won $1,000 for her school and an iPad for her home in the 2012 National Red Ribbon Photo Contest, sponsored the National Family Partnership and the Drug Enforcement Administration.

On Thursday, Jan. 17, Caroline, along with her sisters, Grace and Sarah, stood in front of the lunch crowd of students at the middle school as three DEA agents presented her with the $1,000 check made out to Milton Middle School for drug prevention awareness. Also present were MMS Principal Dan Gleason as master of ceremonies and Milton Mayor Tom Canterbury, who expressed the pride the Town of Milton had for the work the family had done. In another speech, the DEA encouraged the students to remain drug free.

Red Ribbon Week, sponsored by National Family Partnership, a national organization who are leaders in drug prevention education and advocacy, is observed Oct. 23-31 each year as an initiative of prevention and education about the dangers of drugs and alcohol. Students all over the country make pledges to live drug and alcohol free. Red Ribbon Week was established following the abduction and murder of DEA agent Enrique Camareno in 1985.

The National Red Ribbon Photo Contest is held in conjunction with Red Ribbon week as a time when students all over the country along with their families decorate their home, mailbox or fence in red ribbons using the theme for that year. The 2012 theme was "The Best Me is Drug Free." Parents take a picture of the door and email it to RedRibbon.org, where family, friends, and neighbors vote for their favorite entry.

The Kinder family learned about the contest in a rather unusual way. Although they had heard of it, they didn't have any details. However, one morning when the girls sat down to eat breakfast, their dad Ted had left the newspaper folded on the table where a small blurb stood out announcing the contest. Thinking her husband had left it there for the girls to see, (he hadn't) mom Angie, a reading specialist at Hurricane High School, went to the website to learn more about the competition. Caroline, who enjoys arts and crafts wanted to enter the contest and decorate the door.

Plus, drug awareness and prevention is something about which the family cares deeply.

"I thought it would be something I would like to do," Caroline said. "I figured it would be a good thing to do."

After reading the contest rules which simply state the theme was to be part of the artwork and that the door should have a red ribbon bow, Caroline picked a volleyball motif because she and Grace are on the MMS volleyball team and it is Caroline's favorite sport.

To keep with the color scheme, which was red and silver, she put a red boa along the door facing and red bows on different areas of the door. She also used red and silver pipe cleaners to outline designs. She cut out a volleyball net and placed two girls wearing jerseys on each side, and cut a Styrofoam ball in half to use as a volleyball.

Thinking about the theme, "The best me is drug free," Caroline used volleyball terms to get her point across: Standing in front of their door each of the Kinder daughters held a sign with a phrase using a volleyball term. Grace's sign read "I don't 'dig' drugs," Caroline's said, "'Spike' drugs away from your life," and Sarah's read "Drugs aren't 'set' for me."

"We worked on it every day for about a week," Caroline said.

Once the door was finished, the three girls stood in front of it with their signs while their mother took a picture and then emailed their entry. The voting ran from Nov. 14-24, and people could vote 10 times per day.

In order to accomplish their goal to win, the family tried several avenues to gain votes. The girls put their picture on a sheet of paper that also listed the Red Ribbon web site, and passed those out to family and friends.

"We saw people at church and asked them to vote, at basketball practice because it was basketball season, we called family members who could vote -- and teachers had some eighth-graders to vote during class," she said.

Mom Angie Kinder helped get the vote out also.

"Anytime we were out in public, we would see people we knew with their smart phones," she said. If they didn't know how to vote on their phone, the Kinders would show them how to do it.

"We could share the link on Facebook, and send the link to all of our Facebook friends. I also texted all of my friends."

After a busy day at school and an evening basketball game, Caroline learned late on the evening of Dec. 3 that she had been voted the winner for Region Three, encompassing West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Washington D.C.

Caroline said she was thrilled to have won the contest and the iPad.

"I was really proud and excited. I told my friends and they were really happy," she said. Caroline added that she was glad she had helped promote drug prevention awareness.

Although the school has not decided what they will do with the money, it will go to some form of drug prevention and awareness. Angie Kinder said she would like to see her daughters on the committee that makes the decision.

Angie and her husband Ted have made it a point to talk to their children about the dangers of drugs. Quoting from the RedRibbon.org website, she said that children of parents who talk to their children about drugs are 42 percent less likely to use drugs than those who don't. Yet, only a quarter of teens report having these conversations.

Also, beside of Caroline's entry she said this: "In the past, the school had a drug awareness club. We hope this money can be used to bring back this important program."

In an email, Angie said her girls said they believe "the best way to avoid drug use is to pursue your passion. For them, this is volleyball. Grace and Caroline play for Milton Middle School and River Cities Volleyball Club, and all three girls have been Marshall University fans since before they could walk," Angie said.

On the press release announcing the winner from Region Three, Angie Kinder said this:

"It takes a village to raise children; we are all in this together. We want to make sure my friends also talk to their children about the issue of drug prevention. Most people sent encouraging words. It was also a great mother/daughter bonding experience. The contest helped us to continue discussing this issue with our children."