Operation Snowflake held Saturday
During Washington Police Department Sgt. Shawn Ellinson’s presentation Saturday, about 72 junior high school students had the opportunity to stagger around the chapel of Immanuel Lutheran Church.
Wearing goggles that simulated various levels of intoxication, the students tried to do what would normally have been easy tasks. They tried without success to walk a straight line. They tried to grab the hands of other students on the sides of the lines. Even while wearing the ‘Fatal Vision’ goggles that simulated a .07 blood alcohol level — which would be just legal to drive — the students were unable to keep their balance.
“We are trying to show the kids the danger of operating motor vehicles while having your vision and your balance impaired,” Ellingson said.
The simulation was part of the annual running of Operation Snowflake, an all-day event intended to discourage drugs and alcohol while promoting healthy decision-making. This year is the sixth year for the event.
Organizer Rachel Meyer said that the day is designed to help sixth- through eighth-grade students cope with some of the pressures that teens experience. She said former Federation Bank president Dale Torpey had spoken about struggles with a child with addiction. Students also heard a presentation from Washington County Sheriff’s Office deputy Eric Weber about synthetic drugs in the community.
The keynote speaker was John Grossman, who spoke with the students about how people are treated based on the perceptions of them. He also spoke about how those perceptions can be wrong.
The students also formed small groups to discuss other things that affect their daily lives.
Meyer said that she had first learned about Operation Snowball, the Illinois equivalent of Operation Snowflake, about six years ago. She had gone through the presentation as a student. She said it had started in Illinois. She said that Washington has the only chapter of Operation Snowflake in Iowa.
“The point is to give teens an outlet where they can learn about some of the pressures facing them, meet new friends and discuss some of the issues,” Meyer said. “It can be anything from drugs and alcohol to bullying, to issues with friends to peer pressure. It’s tough. It is tough being a teenager today. If we can give kids information and an outlet, that is why we are doing this.”
She said in the future the organization might have follow-up events.
Meyer said that she did all the setup for the event on volunteer time and currently she is the only person in charge of arranging the event.
“I was going to take this year off, but the school year started and kids started asking when Snowflake was,” she said. “I couldn’t tell them no. This is something that kids want and they ask for and we will deliver as long as they want to come.”