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BHS SADD Wins PSA Video Contest

May 31, 2017 07:00AM ● By Pamela Johnson

The PSA team (back, L-R): Lt. Chris Mach, Rob Provost, Joshua Sables, Ptl. Thomas Marston, Dep. Fire Chief Mark Garon; (middle, L-R): Sheila Dennis, George Saliba, Parker Silva, Zach Levy, George Makrin, Lt. Jason Bangma, Chief Steve Gentile; (front, L-R): Melissa Newman, Kathleen Chappie Nicole Mardo, Derek Berchtolder; (not pictured, Krystal Schnyder).

Bellingham High School’s SADD (Students against Destructive Decisions) group got exciting news recently—they had won $1000 for creating a public service announcement video in a contest sponsored by District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr.’s office. The 90-second video will be shown regularly on Worcester’s cable channel Charter TV 3 and is being widely shared on social media as well.

Melissa Newman, co-advisor of SADD along with Sheila Dennis, explained that they had learned of the contest when some of Bellingham’s SADD students attended a conference last fall sponsored by Early’s office. The conference was the kickoff for a year-long campaign, HYPEDD (Helping Youth Prevent and Educate against Drunk Driving), and the contest was part of the campaign. About 120 students participated in the contest.

“After we attended the conference I approached the Bellingham firefighters for help in making the video. Every time I ask them for anything they say, ‘OK,’ ” Newman said. “I walked down to the police station and Officer Tom Marston offered to help us out [he’s the one who took on the unenviable role in the video of notifying the family that their child had died]. Tom even washed the police car before the taping—he wanted to make sure it looked good.”

In January the fire department set a barrel fire behind the fire station to provide appropriate atmosphere for the taping. The students in the video are all SADD members or friends of SADD members. Newman said, “If they weren’t actually SADD members, we made them members for a day.” The group hired Chris Babiana of Streamline to tape and edit the video. “We confirmed that it was okay to pay Chris from our funds,” Newman explained. The prize money will go toward future SADD programs.

Although Early’s office sponsored the contest, Norfolk District Attorney Michael Morrissey was invited to join in the check presentation ceremony. (Bellingham, while in Norfolk County, is actually assigned to the Worcester District, just to confuse things.) Morrissey said, “We often see kids in bad situations; we like to be sure that good kids get recognized too.”

The prize money for the contest came from the Drunk Driving Trust Fund, money derived from fees charged for convictions of operating under the influence (OUI). Early noted, “We’d much rather prevent than prosecute.” He also said, “The message from the students is the best one we can deliver to help stop impaired driving and its potentially lethal consequences.”

In the prize-winning video, Bellingham student Zach Levy took on the role of the student who died. “It felt real and made me think about what not to do,” Levy said. “People who have seen the video tell me what an impact it has had. My parents started watching it but couldn’t watch the whole thing.”

Bellingham student Nicole Mardo recalled, “In the video I was in the beginning group of girls. We had drinks in our hands, and a fire was burning. It was a last-minute decision on my part to participate and I’m glad I did. It was an honor to be part of it. When my mom watched it she started tearing up. She was speechless—she loved it.”

Students who took part in the video were Krystal Schneyder, Nicole Mardo, Derek Berchtold, Kathleen Chappie, George Saliba, George Makrin, Zach Levy, Parker Silva and Jake Mangano. Officer Tom Marston from the Police Department was featured, as were firefighters Jim Perry, Jason Bangma and Garrett Wante. SADD co-advisor Melissa Newman originated the concept for the video storyline.

Congratulations for a job well done. The YouTube link to view Bellingham’s winning PSA video is—but make sure you have a tissue handy first.
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