The annual Drug House Odyssey will once again highlight for local students and the public the potential consequences of combining alcohol consumption and drug use with driving.
Drug House Odyssey 2014: A Lee County Prevention Event will take place Tuesday to Thursday at Cape Christian Fellowship. Over the three days, about 2,100 fifth-graders from 12 Lee County schools will take part in the real-life walkthrough play, which opens to the public Wednesday from 6-8 p.m.
Organized by the Lee County Coalition for a Drug-Free Southwest Florida, the story follows a quartet of high school students from a casual encounter with drinking and drugs, through a car accident, visit to the emergency room, arrest and court proceedings. Some of the teens drink, while some choose not to.
"It's all about choices," Deborah Comella, executive director of the coalition, said. "At the end, they talk a little bit about the kids that didn't drink and really got to see their dreams come to fruition."
Real-life law enforcement, fire and rescue, medical and legal professionals, including police officers, firefighters, trauma doctors, attorneys, EMS responders and chaplains, act out the parts in the play.
"I have about 35 agencies and organizations," she said of this year's participants. "It's just awesome that all these people get together - we use the real people for everything."
In 2013, an estimated 2,450 people attended the play, including about 350 on the open night.
The total turnout for this year is projected to be approximately the same.
"We're expecting about the same because we use the actual cops, the actual doctors and everything, so we can only have it for three days," Comella said.
If You Go
Drug House Odyssey 2014: A Lee County Prevention Event
Wednesday, March 12,
from 6 to 8 p.m.
Cape Christian Fellowship, 2110 S. Chiquita Blvd.
On Wednesday evening, the event is not only open to the public, it is free.
"We have families that come through. We have a church group that comes every single year," she said, adding that children enrolled at schools that did not make the field trip list come with their families.
"Scout groups come year after year," Comella said.
Of the 12 schools selected to take part, 10 are public schools and two are private. The students are coming from the Cape and Fort Myers Beach, to Lehigh Acres and Bonita Springs. Schools on the waiting list will have in-class prevention programs for their students for the first time this year.
She explained that this ensures no child is left out of the lesson.
"Our main problem is always going to be alcohol," Comella said, adding that the focus of the play is always underage drinking. "The onset of drinking has moved down to 10 or 11 years old."
Prior to the field trips and even afterward, teachers discuss the topic with students.
"Studies have found that this is the age that responds the best to this kind of learning," she said.
In addition to the play, the event will feature booths from the participating agencies and organizations on safety and prevention issues. For the first time, Lee County EMS will have a helicopter on site.
Each tour of the play lasts about 40 minutes; the last tour Wednesday leaves at 7:30 p.m.
"We take them in small groups," Comella said.
The play is not recommended for children under 8; comfortable shoes are suggested.
"We've found parents to be really interested in how they can approach prevention with their kids," she said. "This is just another tool in the prevention tool kit - it's a chance to continue that discussion."
Cape Christian Fellowship is at 2110 S. Chiquita Blvd.
For more information on the Drug House Odyssey, visit: www.drugfreeswfl.org/.