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Van Beek: Spring forward safely

May is a time for new beginnings, end-of-season vacations, and making the switch from winter to summer toys.

There is a sigh of relief in anticipation of a break, while also an air of excitement. We see Mother Nature making the transition from snow to mud to green hillsides with blooming flowers. Everything is ready for a change.

For many of us, this is also a time of celebration, as students are graduating from high schools across the valley, and college students returning home for the summer, as they plan their future careers.



All of this celebrating is thrilling, and as with all thrills, there is usually a degree of caution that must be exercised.

As adults, we all recall the fun times we had as the school year was ending and the insane antics that we managed, in our youthful ignorance … surprised that we survived all the craziness. Dates, parties, dares, and an abundance of alcohol, which we naturally told our parents that we would never touch. Some kids took their “partying” to the next level and brought other substances, and while most didn’t participate in using, others did.



It was a time of life when we all felt immune to any danger. Now as grownups, we understand the temptation. And, while there were plenty of things that could cause us serious injury or worse, we partied in relatively blissful innocence. However, we all recall tragedies, as well. The loss of friends who carelessly took things too far.

Don’t make the happiest time of your life become the saddest.

There are the traditional cautionary tales of reckless driving and drunken behavior, which can be serious or even fatal. Don’t drink. If you do, then don’t drive. But whatever you do, please don’t take any drugs. Even a small pill that you think will keep you alert for the evening can be laced with something deadly.

Much has been written about the heightened danger of drug use. It’s not the same as it was years ago, which was still highly addictive and killing people, but now we have a new kid on the block, fentanyl.

The biggest danger with fentanyl is that such a small amount can kill you and it is virtually undetectable. You’ll think you’re taking adderall, but it’s not. You’ll think you’re smoking pot, but it’s so much more. You may be introduced to a new drink, but it may contain more than what you think.

Nothing is worth sacrificing your life for, especially when you have so much to live for.

While being a bit rebellious is a rite of passage, as you leave high school and move forward toward adulthood, it’s important to remember that some of the things prohibited could actually cost you your life.

Instead, consider some fun graduation and summer activities that are daring but not life-threatening.

First, non-alcoholic drinks don’t have to be bland. Food & Wine magazine offers some great suggestions:

  • Tuscan Fresco: Sweet peach nectar, tangy white cranberry juice, and lemon juice make a great spritzer.
  • Cucumber Cooler: This cocktail calls for fresh pineapple chunks in cooling cucumber water.
  • Strawberry and Ginger Cooler: Spicy and sweet, this tall mocktail calls for both fresh ginger and ginger beer.
  • Pom Pom: Mango nectar, pomegranate juice and cloves give this vibrant drink a tiki-esque flavor.
  • Lilikoi: A terrific mimosa stand-in, this tangy drink is made with mango puree, passion fruit nectar, and fresh citrus juices.
  • You can also create something unique with a SodaStream and various combined fruit juices

Also, set up party “bars” — a taco bar, ice cream bar, latte bar, make your own pizza or other fun food bar..

The Spruce.com suggests some fun party themes. They can even be set up like a tailgate party.

  • Create a fun party wall with curtains, as a photo booth
  • Make a graduation party video to view at the end of the evening, or live-stream it
  • Have everyone bring their favorite photos and create a big-screen slideshow
  • Add chalkboard walls for everyone to doodle and write funny messages
  • Bring helium and balloons so everyone can create balloon messages and send them off
  • Set up a giant map and sticky paper so people can put their name on the place they plan on going next … for college, work, vacation, or just somewhere they hope to visit
  • Have parents send over fun early childhood photos of your friends, then let everyone try to guess who they are
  • Set up a barbeque grill with burgers, hot dogs, veggies, or other finger foods

There are so many fun things that you can do, and staying sober allows you to remember every wonderful minute.

Arrange for a campout sleepover or have everyone pitch in to rent a van to take people home. We don’t want your ride of the evening to be in a police car or an ambulance.

Have fun this year!


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