-- Update, including comments from Stanek himself, at bottom --
This afternoon, Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek will meet with a group of children from the Boys and Girls Club of Little Earth to run these words of wisdom by them:
Don't do drugs, because they're bad. But you know what's fun and isn't bad for you? Ice fishing! So why don't you try that instead?
Left unanswered is the question of why a person can't enjoy ice fishing and drugs, but we're probably thinking too hard about the whole thing.
Stanek's message will be conveyed during the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office's "Hooked on Fishing; Not on Drugs" event, set to take place between 1 and 4 this afternoon at Fort Snelling State Park.
"Drug use has been rampant in [the Little Earth] area," Hennepin County Sheriff Public Information Officer Jennifer Johnson, speaking on behalf of Stanek, told us. "It's about telling kids, 'Say no, don't get started because it's not worth it -- it can ruin your life.'"
Johnson said that although law enforcement is "having a huge issue with heroin in Hennepin County," Stanek's remarks will address the dangers of drug use generally.
"Among teenagers the number one drug is marijuana and the second is prescription pills," she said. "And pills tie in with heroin use, so we want to tell them, 'You're young, you have your whole life ahead of you.' We want to help them make good choices."
"In this community that's had a drug issue, we want to tell the kids, 'Say no to drugs in general,'" Johnson added.
Following Stanek's anti-drug speech, the kids will learn about ice safety, receive miniature tackle boxes with a variety of goodies inside, and then head out on the water "and hope to catch a big one," Johnson said.
"It's very similar to the DARE program," she continued. "We teach kids that drugs can look like candy, pills, or come in little baggies, and ask them, 'What are you gonna do if you come across these things? Tell an adult. And if you're asked to do drugs, say no.'"
(Click to page two to read our interview with Stanek.)
:::: UPDATE ::::
We heard from Sheriff Stanek himself this afternoon.
"It's real simple -- we want [the kids] to know that they have choices, good and bad, and we want them to make choices based on facts, not peer pressure," he said.
What facts? Stanek cited that there were 54 heroin-related deaths in Hennepin County last year, a number that is "up dramatically from 2012, '11, and 2010."
"We know from discussion with [Little Earth] community leaders that probably one of their biggest issues is with heroin abuse," Stanek said. "All of those deaths are preventable and tragic."
That said, Stanek added that his message is one that is generally anti-drug and not specifically targeted at heroin abuse.
"We'll talk to them a little bit about heroin abuse and marijuana, but at the same time we want to engage them in a positive activity like fishing," he said.
We even asked Stanek about the possibility people might use illegal drugs while fishing, and if he has any thoughts about ice fishing's frequent association with binge drinking.
"Um, well, the best answer is you have a choice to do either/or/both," Stanek replied. "A good choice would be to go out ice fishing, a bad choice would be to use illegal drugs, because that'll cost you short- and long-term."
"You don't have to drink while you fish. I like to go fish, have fun, and enjoy my time out there," he continued. "But people make choices, and I can't control every choice they make. My job is to help educate people."