Snowball a drug-free weekend retreat; Naperville students enjoy fun, friends, critical lessons

November 1, 2013 (INGLESIDE, Ill.)

More than 200 students from five Naperville-area high schools are gathering for a three-day retreat. They call this "Operation Snowball."

"Snowball is a drug and alcohol-free weekend retreat where teens from all over the Naperville area can come and talk about their experiences that they've had either in their family life or their social life and talk through the difficulties that they've had," said Naperville Central High School senior Blake Cortez.

Students participate in a number of activities meant to be fun while teaching a critical lesson. Substance abuse prevention is high on the list.

Students admit alcohol and drug use is too common among their peers.

"Like drink and smoke and do all that like illegal stuff. Especially at North, there are a lot of people who are struggling with it and people like think they have to do it just to fit in," said Naperville North High School senior Kayla Smith.

"When kids come here, they learn about how they don't need to use drugs and alcohol to have fun. We have fun here being sober," Naperville Central High School senior Brad Holland said.

The retreat aims to give students the confidence to say no. Organizers from the non-profit 360 youth services say over time they've seen teen troubles rise and fewer resources available to help.

"Substances are a great kind of escape and if you're looking for a way to escape and you're not getting it," said 360 Youth Services Executive Director Ron Hume. "You're not being heard and you're looking to keep up a certain type of image then substance abuse is certainly one way to do it and adults to that the same as kids. We just want to help the kids make healthy choices about that."

Snowball offers a safe place for students to release their feelings and gives offer tools they can use to help them become leaders among their peers.

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