Winning Hearts and Minds in Silver Spring:

VVA’s Veterans Against Drugs and Violence Committee Launches 
“First Annual All Skate Free”

“We want to welcome you to the ‘First Annual Community Day All Skate Free, ‘ Sponsored by Vietnam Veterans of America’s Veterans Against Drugs and Violence (VAD) committee, ” announced VVA Vice President Fred Elliott over the loudspeaker to all who had come out on Valentine’s Day for an evening of fun and education.

Dave Simmons, chair of the VAD Committee, noted, “Tonight is special, because we are here in Silver Spring’s Veterans Plaza, and this location just makes good sense. We are veterans; the name of the program is Veterans Against Drugs; and we are within a block of our national headquarters.” Simmons went on to explain the VAD program: “We do outreach events like this in communities nationwide. Our anti-drug and -violence projects are done in different ways in communities all over the country, for example, in West Virginia, we roller skate, and in Alaska we take the kids out on horseback for wilderness camping.”

Said Elliott, as he and his wife, Marie, greeted the young skaters and handed out VAD literature to the children, parents, and others who stopped by, “this event is a huge success, well beyond anything we had anticipated. We had hoped for 200 skaters; we felt that if we could hit that number, we would have reached our goal. At last count, we had 229 skaters.”

Past AVVA President Elaine Simmons, who distributed dozens of red carnations, donated by Bell Florist in Silver Spring, observed, “This is truly VVA in service to America. The national headquarters has made its presence known in its local community.”

As VVA staff and members of VVA Chapter 641 distributed brochures, as well as pads, pens, and water bottles donated by Monument Bank, they were heartened by the warmth and gratitude of those who came out for the event. One young couple, in town from Atlanta, came by the table to thank VVA. “It’s my wife’s first time on skates, and my second time. This is for a good cause and we wanted to support it, thank you VVA.”

Noted VVA’s Tom Berger, “this is almost overwhelming; it’s been a long while since I have seen so many happy people in one place.”

“Our objectives are twofold, ” explained Deborah Williams, VVA staff member and VAD program facilitator for the D.C. area. “We want to get the anti-drug and -violence message out to the children and their parents, and we want to let the community of Silver Spring know that we are here and that we want to be active in our community.” She noted, as parents, we can equip our children with what we know, but we need the help of others to reinforce our message, and that is where VAD makes the difference. “My sister was a drug addict, ” shared Williams. “It impacted our family tremendously. She ended up dying at a young age from a drug overdose. That is why I asked to become part of VAD.”

Added Williams, “I can’t wait to do it again. Skating is a great way for kids to burn off energy. VAD promotes healthy activities, because we want to encourage kids to be fit and healthy and to look for other things than getting high.”

“We were able to reach out and touch an awful lot of people and inform them about our program and our organization, ” observed Elliott. “It was a win-win-win success—I could not have been happier. This is something we need to do more often, and hopefully this is the first of many more events in Silver Spring.”

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