Go Pur­ple cam­paign draws crowd in fi­nale

Sunday Star - - LOCAL - By TR­ISH MCGEE pm­cgee@thekent­coun­tynews.com

WORTON — Kent County showed up by the hun­dreds Fri­day night, Sept. 28, a tes­ta­ment to the com­mu­nity buy-in of the Go Pur­ple pub­lic aware­ness cam­paign that spot­lights sub­stance abuse.

A crowd es­ti­mated at about 1,500 filled the bleach­ers of Tro­jan Sta­dium for the Kent-Queen Anne’s high school foot­ball game, and many of them stayed af­ter­ward to hear Qadry Is­mail, a mem­ber of the Bal­ti­more Ravens’ 2000 Su­per Bowl cham­pi­onship team, talk about what needs to be done to keep young peo­ple off the path of de­struc­tion.

“Kids are un­der tremen­dous pres­sure to fit in, and that in­cludes suc­cumb­ing to neg­a­tive peer pres­sure,” Is­mail said from a makeshift stage on the Kent County side­line.

To com­bat that, “we as a com­mu­nity have to draw the line in the sand and be that com­mu­nity that says ‘enough is enough.’ … We will not say it is OK to do drugs, to numb our minds. We should be try­ing to el­e­vate and ed­u­cate. Let us be a com­mu­nity that sup­ports one an­other,” Is­mail said, speak­ing with­out a script.

He urged par­ents to have the “hard con­ver­sa­tion” with their chil­dren about the per­ils of drug use.

To the stu­dent ath­letes, cheer­lead­ers and march­ing band mem­bers in the au­di­ence — who Is­mail char­ac­ter­ized as “our fu­ture” — he said, “It’s OK to hang out and have fun, but you only get this one chance to live life. Let’s live it to the fullest.”

Is­mail spent 10 years in the Na­tional Foot­ball League, re­tir­ing at the con­clu­sion of the 2002 season. He played for five NFL teams but had the most suc­cess with the Ravens. He gained more than 1,000 yards re­ceiv­ing in two of his three sea­sons (1999-2001) in Bal­ti­more.

He was a foot­ball and track star in high school in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., and a two-sport All-Amer­i­can Brown Univer­sity.

But he didn’t talk about him­self this Fri­day night.

He be­gan by con­grat­u­lat­ing the Tro­jans and the Li­ons for play­ing a com­pet­i­tive game, and telling them that will re­mem­ber “the mo­ments” of a big ri­valry game like this for a long time. He also rec­og­nized Kent and Queen Anne’s as two well­coached pro­grams.

The foot­ball game was the cul­mi­nat­ing event of the month-long Kent Goes Pur­ple ini­tia­tive, spon­sored by the Ch­ester­town Ro­tary Club and the Kent County Sher­iff’s Of­fice. The large crowd could be at­trib­uted in part to the free ad­mis­sion that was of­fered to anyone who wore pur­ple, the chance to win Ravens mem­o­ra­bilia and un­re­stricted ac­cess to Is­mail, who signed au­to­graph af­ter au­to­graph.

“It was so much fun, and even though we lost, ev­ery­body had so much school spirit,” said Kent County High School ju­nior Mal­lory Helfen­bein.

The Go Pur­ple move­ment is more than a foot­ball game.

And Helfen­bein gets that. “The fact that the whole com­mu­nity and school were com­ing to­gether for such a great cause made it even bet­ter,” she wrote in a text mes­sage Tues­day night, Oct. 2. “It was nice at to know that many peo­ple care about the same is­sues and are will­ing to do some­thing about it in or­der to raise aware­ness and make the com­mu­nity bet­ter as a whole,” she said.

Play­ers from Queen Anne’s County High School and their fam­i­lies and friends also were in­vited to join in the Kent Goes Pur­ple fes­tiv­i­ties at the game.

“Our two coun­ties are con­nected on so many lev­els — ge­o­graph­i­cally, his­tor­i­cally, cul­tur­ally and com­mer­cially — and our com­mu­ni­ties need to tackle the opi­oid cri­sis to­gether be­cause the drugs don’t stop at the bor­der,” said Andy Mee­han, a mem­ber of the Ch­ester­town Ro­tary Club and one of the Kent Goes Pur­ple or­ga­niz­ers.

Ro­tar­ian Kirk Helfen­bein, an­other of the or­ga­niz­ers, said “the fact that this project was em­braced by both Kent and Queen Anne’s coun­ties not only un­der­lines the con­cern for this in­va­sive epi­demic but the wide­spread un­der­stand­ing of the true def­i­ni­tion of com­mu­nity.”

Kent County Sher­iff John Price said he was very pleased with the pub­lic’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in all three events: the light­ing of the court­house on Sept. 7, the 5K color fun run two days later and the home foot­ball game against Queen Anne’s.

“The com­mu­nity seemed to be re­ally en­gaged, and that’s what we wanted,” said Price, hair pur­ple game.

“I was very happy with the mes­sage that we were able to get out, that peo­ple need to start talk­ing with their fam­i­lies and their kids.”

The sher­iff said school re­source deputies at Kent County Mid­dle School and Kent County High School re­lated to him that ed­u­ca­tional mes­sages broad­casted in those schools res­onated with the stu­dents. The same ed­u­ca­tional in­for­ma­tion was shared with Kent School, Rad­cliffe Creek School and Ch­ester­town Chris­tian Academy.

“It’s re­ally im­por­tant to get kids at a very young age when we can steer them in the right di­rec­tion to be drug free,” Price said in a tele­phone in­ter­view Tues­day.

This was the first of what who dyed his for the foot­ball is ex­pected to be an an­nual ini­tia­tive.

The fo­cus this year was on stu­dents in grades six through 12 — coun­ty­wide, in pub­lic and pri­vate schools.

The plan is to broaden the scope to ele­men­tary schoolage stu­dents and the faith­based com­mu­nity in 2019.

“The in­au­gu­ral se­ries of events was some­thing very spe­cial and has hope­fully in­creased aware­ness and sparked a re­newed di­a­logue about the dan­gers of sub­stance abuse,” Mee­han wrote in an email ear­lier this week. “The out­pour­ing of sup­port from lo­cal busi­nesses, agen­cies, in­sti­tu­tions and in­di­vid­u­als was phe­nom­e­nal, and we con­nected with folks from all walks of life and all cor­ners of Kent County.”

“I think it was great for our first year,” Price added.


Re­tired NFL player Qadry Is­mail, the key­note speaker at the Fri­day, Sept. 28, Kent Goes Pur­ple high school foot­ball game, tells the crowd it is not OK to use drugs.

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