BOONS CAMP – A sign in the cafeteria at Meade Memorial Elementary reminds visitors: “A winning tradition … whatever it takes.”

That philosophy, as it applies to the region’s fight against substance abuse, was echoed by Kentucky First Lady Jane Beshear during a visit to Operation UNITE’s Shoot Hoops Not Drugs basketball camp July 12.

“There’s a lot of temptations out there. It’s scary,” Beshear warned the camp participants. “I want you to learn that you can say ‘No’. It’s important to stay free of drugs.”

“The world is out there for you to do anything you want to,” Beshear stressed, but added “you can only do it if you take care of your mind … and you take care of your body.”

To view photos from camp click here.

The camp, held at the eastern Johnson County school, was conducted by former University of Kentucky basketball standout Jeff Sheppard.

This was the fifth of six regional programs being held this summer and drew 154 youth participants from six counties (Johnson, Lawrence, Pike, Floyd, Martin and Magoffin) and Indiana.

Winners of two basketball goals given away during camp were 5-year-old Brooke Procter of Inez in Martin County and 10-year-old Jason Blevins of Sitka in Johnson County.

Presented by Phoenix Products, Shoot Hoops Not Drugs camps are fun, interactive, and provide a safe, drug-free activity where children have an opportunity to interact with positive role models while learning fundamental basketball skills.

At the beginning of camp, parents and guardians of the youth participants were presented a program on the importance of keeping close tabs on their prescription and over-the-counter medications.

“We need to have strong, healthy, productive children,” Beshear told the adults. “We owe it to these kids to give them every opportunity for success.”

For youth to reach their potential they need the right influences, she said. This includes addressing environmental and social issues that increase the risk of experimentation with drugs.

“You can’t wrap them in cotton. Children in the community belong to the community. We need to take responsibility … to provide the right path,” Beshear said. “I know what UNITE has been doing over the years. I want to see it continue.”

Prescription drug abuse is a growing epidemic across the nation, and studies have shown that most teens first experiment with drugs obtained from their family or a friend’s family without their knowledge.

Beshear stressed the importance of keeping track and properly disposing of their prescription and over-the-counter medications, the focus of UNITE’s “Accidental Dealer” awareness campaign earlier this year.

Helping make the 2011 Shoot Hoops Not Drugs camps possible are:

Gold Sponsors – Codell Construction, Knox County UNITE Coalition, Rockcastle County UNITE Coalition, Senture, SouthEast Telephone and Walmart of Eastern Kentucky.

Silver Sponsors – Citizens Bank & Trust (Jackson), Citizens National Bank (Somerset), First National Bank (Jackson), Huffman & Huffman, PSC (Somerset), and Johnny Maco’s Electrical Contracting (Jackson).

Bronze Sponsors – Alton Blakley Family of Dealerships (Somerset), Community Trust Bank (Pikeville) and St. Joseph-Martin (Floyd County).