By: Teresa Bond-Mason | Category: Education | Issue: February 2018
The Operation Art Gala features artists & kids teaming up together for a great cause.
If there were a sure way to prevent your child from harm, you’d be quick to do whatever it takes. Operation Aware has been doing “whatever it takes” for nearly four decades to help Oklahoma kids make positive life choices and equip them with the knowledge to keep them safe.
Started in 1979 as a one-man mission by Gregg Conway, Operation Aware serves students in Northeast Oklahoma from the ages of four all the way through high school. It’s an eight-week program that teaches everything from goal setting, bullying, the risk of substance abuse to relationships and peer pressure. 681,107 kids in public, private and faith based schools in urban rural and suburban settings have been taught the importance of good choices.
The curriculum is an innovative approach that presents health facts, consequences of high-risk behaviors and strategies for positive decision making. Jeni Dolan, Executive Director, explains, “Kids tend to think they are going to be offered drugs in a dark alley by a stranger in a white van. We teach them this isn’t the case. It’s usually offered by a familiar face in a familiar place and then we teach them how to deal with that.” Jeni goes on to explain that kids today know a lot more about drugs because of all the information presented to them on social media and television. “Many times they are confused on what is illegal versus what is legal.”
Another innovative teaching strategy Operation Aware has incorporated is EMSA demonstrating what exactly happens when someone overdoses on drugs. “Kids get to see that clothes are cut, charcoal is injested – it’s not pretty,” suggests Jeni. She also says they have an organ kits which demonstrates exactly what your organs look like after drug and alcohol use.
Keeping the program thriving is one of the many challenges Jeni and her peers face. In 1985, then First Lady Nancy Reagan helped raise $800,000 for an endowment for Operation Aware. Since that time, they’ve had to think of some creative fundraising techniques to keep their organization thriving. Operation Art Gala is one such event.
Art by Laura Thompson and student Julie Jansen
At Operation Art Gala, local artists pair up with students to create a unique art piece that is then auctioned off at the Gala. “Kids work with the artists for four months to create these one-of-a-kind masterpieces,” boasts Jeni. This year will perhaps be even more special . . . one of the artists is actually a former student – Autumn Andrews. Autumn explains that through her experience with Operation Art she was able to discover she was good enough and truly found her escape through art.
This year’s sixth gala will be held April 14 at the Mayo Hotel in Tulsa. Tickets are $100 a plate and can be purchased online at www.operationaware.org. There will be a silent auction in addition to the art. You may even be able to meet some of your favorite artists there!
Watching kids flourish and teaching them to see the positive though the negative are just a couple of the things Jeni says are the rewards of Operation Aware. “There are so many triggers for youth today. They get so many mixed messages. I’m proud to be part of an organization that talks to them about their goals and dreams. Every kids needs someone to tell them they can do good.”
Operation Aware Staff and Board Intern: Cynthia Bergman-prevention educator, Mackenzie Staples-Director of Programs, Jeni Dolan-Executive Director, Sierra Fletcher-Prevention Educator, Brandon Oldham- Board intern.
Art by Preston Powers and Student Savannah Holder Bidding war between: Portia Haynes and Fred Fleischner
Teresa Bond-Mason is an Oklahoma native and a graduate from the University of Tulsa with a degree in communication. Teresa has written a wide range of articles from insurance journals to book reviews and of course her latest work for Value News! In her spare time, Teresa enjoys spending time with her family, traveling, reading and scrapbooking.
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