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Tar Wars Contest Winners Take Tobacco-free Message to Capitol Hill
Participating in AAFP Program is 'Inspiring,' Says FP
By David Mitchell • Washington
McGuinness was named the winner of the 2011 Tar Wars national poster contest July 12 during the annual Tar Wars National Conference, which, each summer, represents the culmination of the AAFP's school-based tobacco-free education program.
"She's good at everything she does," Patty McGuinness said of her daughter, who skipped a grade and will start sixth grade in the fall. "She's a high achiever."
Family physicians and other health care professionals present Tar Wars -- AAFP's tobacco-free education program -- every year to fourth- and fifth-graders. More than 8 million children have seen the presentations since the program's inception in 1988.
In an interview with AAFP News Now, Saria Carter Saccocio, M.D., of Danville, Va., a member of the AAFP Tobacco Cessation Advisory Committee, spelled out precisely why she's involved with the Tar Wars program and why she encourages other FPs to get involved, too.
- Alana McGuinness, of Bristol, R.I., was named the winner of the 2011 Tar Wars national poster contest.
- Blaire McCarthy, of St. Petersburg, Fla., was named the winner of the program's first national video contest.
- Children spread the program's tobacco-free message by touring Capitol Hill and meeting with their elected officials.
After physicians present the Tar Wars curriculum in school classrooms, students are encouraged to create posters conveying the positive aspects of being tobacco-free. McGuinness couldn't think of one good thing to say -- or draw -- about tobacco when she sat down to work on her poster, so she drew a picture of herself standing in front of a mirror.
"When the doctor came into our class and told us it's wrong to smoke, he also said we had a choice," said McGuinness. "So it was about reflecting a positive image."
In fact, "Reflect a positive image, live tobacco free," was the tagline on McGuinness' poster. Evidently, that message resonated with the contest judges, who awarded McGuinness first prize and $2,000 to use toward a family vacation.
"Our first thought was Disney," Patty McGuinness said of possible getaway destinations. "That's our second home. She's well-traveled, from coast to coast."
"I'm going to buy myself a nice camera because I'd like to be a photographer when I'm older," said McCarthy, who will start sixth grade in the fall.
McCarthy's winning video posed the question: "Are you a tar performer or a top performer?" Using video of her brother biking and sailing, McCarthy showed that athletic endeavors are enhanced if a person is tobacco-free.
"This went from a little extra credit project at school to something much bigger," said Sally McCarthy, Blaire's mother. "She got a shot of confidence from standing up in front of a group of people and winning that award. I've seen a new side of her in the last 24 hours. She seems more mature, she wants to learn more, and she wants to go visit the museums and the Capitol."
Thirty of 38 state poster contest winners attended the July 12 conference. Many of the children visited Capitol Hill July 13 and met with their elected officials, presenting them with copies of their posters and information about the program. McGuinness, for example, met with Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I.
"This is an exciting opportunity for her to meet with the senator and take a leadership role in advocating for Tar Wars," Patty McGuinness said. "It's a good transition for her going into junior high."
McCarthy said she also had a good experience.
"I had a lot of fun and learned a lot," she said.
McCarthy wasn't the only winner representing St. Paul Catholic School at the conference. Rachel Whitlach, Florida's state poster winner, placed fifth in the national poster contest. The following students also placed in the top 10:
- Second place: Brooklyn Driver, of Lafayette, Tenn.;
- Third place: Hady Hernandez, of Houston;
- Fourth place: Hayden Simmons, of Ranburne, Ala.;
- Sixth place: Madelyn Noyes, of Springfield, Ill.;
- Seventh place: Rachel Colligan, of Parkville, Mo.;
- Eighth place: Meghan Johnson, of Westfield, N.J.;
- Ninth place: Kelli Taylor, of Ovett, Miss.; and
- 10th place: Shayla French, of Plymouth, Mich.
Tar Wars is supported, in part, by the AAFP Foundation.
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