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Putting the freeze on ice

The Australian Anti Ice Campaign (AAIC), in partnership with local business, Mareeba Rotary and other community organisations has launched a program in Far North Queensland to educate and raise awareness of the incredible dangers of using Ice, with particular focus on high school students throughout FNQ. AAIC’s core message – not even once. .

AAIC was birthed out of Founder and CEO Andre’s Simmons own experience having been entrapped in and finding recovery from Ice addiction. At the age of 40, Andre’a, a mother of two teenage daughters and a successful businesswoman, was going through a marriage separation and was offered an Ice pipe on the basis the “It will just help you relax ”.

Without even knowing it was Ice Andre’a made the near fatal decision to have that first puff, a decision that saw her quickly spiral into a 2 year, $500 a day Ice habit that nearly took her life.

“Ice addiction is a living hell, a scary place that very few people ever fully escape from. Myself and all our Workshop Presenters are among the lucky ones who have escaped and we are committed to using our experiences to warn others, particularly our youth, so that they can make better choices if and when this insidiously addictive and destructive drug is offered to them”, Ms. Simmons said.

Andrew and Graeme Ford from Hansen Ford and Mareeba Toyota have committed to a five year Major Sponsorship to kick off the AAIC Program in Mareeba and the Tablelands region. Andrew Ford said that the long term future of the town and the region was the motivation behind the sponsorship.

“We need to equip our youth and give them the best possible chance to grow into healthy, productive members of the community. Our business, other businesses and the community in general needs to develop quality young people so the region can continue to grow and prosper. We are proud to be AAIC’s Major Sponsor in the region and are thrilled at the results we have seen and feedback received from the first phase of the program” he said.

Andre’a Simmons expressed her heartfelt gratitude to the Ford family for the Hansen Ford-Mareeba Toyota Sponsorship.

“While we continue to make submission for State and Commonwealth Government funding, this has been a long process and we currently rely totally on support from businesses, organisations and individuals in local communities. The five year commitment from Hansen Ford – Mareeba Toyota has been a huge blessing for AAIC and I cannot thank Andrew and Graeme enough for their generosity and their heart to help their community” she said.

Phase 1 of the program saw 810 Mareeba High School and Dimbulah High School students participate in an AAIC Anti Ice Education Workshop late last year.

The AAIC Workshop presents information in relation to the highly toxic ingredients used in making Ice, the short and long term physical and mental health effects of Ice use as well as presenting students with tools and strategies if, most likely when, Ice is ever offered to them or if a friend is using or considering using Ice.

The key to the AAIC Workshop is the recruiting and training of Workshop Presenters who, like Andre’a Simmons, have been through the hell of Ice addiction and have been “clean” for at least one year. Workshop presenters weave their own heartfelt stories of addiction into an interactive PowerPoint and Video based workshop.

Mareeba High Deputy Principal Lesa Pershouse believes that the powerful workshop presentation could have a lasting, even lifelong positive impact on kid’s attitudes to taking Ice.

“Hearing first hand from someone who has been in that situation is very different from just a normal classroom setting” she said.

“It will make a difference. Maybe not tomorrow and maybe not next week. But definitely in the lives of these young people it’s going to be a positive thing”.

In Phase 2 Mareeba High School Students will participate in a “refresher” AAIC Presentation this year as well as competing in a “Not Even Once” art competition run through the schools. This competition will give students the opportunity to compete and win prizes at a local, regional, state and national level.

Photos of all submitted art pieces, together with the student’s 100-150 word artist statement will be displayed on the AAIC Website and Social Media pages. Selected entrant’s art pieces will be featured in this newspaper over the course of the year and in a public display at the Mareeba Art Gallery throughout October this year.

Mareeba Rotary Club will partner with AAIC to arrange the public display and judging of entrant’s art pieces and to stage an annual Walk against Ice and Youth Engagement event to raise awareness and funds for the ongoing campaign.

Again Ms. Simmons expressed her extreme gratitude for the assistance of the Mareeba Rotary Club.

“This is a community problem that requires a community response. For us partnerships with respected and trusted organisations that care about their community like Rotary is critical. The support we have received in Mareeba, including from the Mareeba High School and from Carl at The Express has been amazing.” she said.

AAIC has appointed a full time Far North Queensland Development Officer to assist with expanding the program in the region. Businesses, individuals, community organisations, schools or clubs who are interested in participating or assisting can register their details on the AAIC’s website – www.australianantiicecampaign.org.au.

Anyone struggling with Ice addiction or a family member with a loved one using Ice are encouraged to contact AAIC directly on 07 5665 6363 or to reach out through the AAIC website or Facebook page.

Caption: SUPPORT: Andrew Ford from Hansen Ford and Mareeba Toyota pictured with AAIC CEO Andre’s Simmons and Operations Manager Glenn Ivers at the Mareeba ICE Forum last year.

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