St. Joe’s students send out an S.O.S. about drinking and driving

By Aaron Jahn

St. Joseph’s Catholic school held their annual Message on a Bottle assembly on Tuesday to show off the LCBO bagson which they put messages about the dangers of drinking and driving.

The annual event is organized by grade 7 teacher Val Pelaccia, something he has been doing for ten years at two different schools.    This is the eighth year of the event at St. Joe’s.  He says his inspiration came from a magazine article in the late nineties.

“It started in the late nineties in a small town in British Columbia called Armstrong , I read about in a magazine article and I found it really interesting that a little rural community was doing these decorations on the LCBO bags and how much it helped,” said Pelaccia.   “I brought it to my first school ten years ago, St. John the Evangelist in Woodslee it was quite a success there and I transferred to this school eight years ago and it was quite a success here too.”


Grade 7 students from St. Joseph's show their placards with their message to people this holiday season.

Pelaccia says that not only do the students enjoy making the bags and learn their own lessons from them, but that the LCBO and their patrons look forward to them annually.

“The LCBO really likes getting them and the patrons really enjoy receiving them, actually they ask for our bags at Christmas time.  But mostly it’s for the students, they’re the ones that do the slogans they do the bags and they enjoy doing them,” said Pelaccia.  “It educates them on the perils of drinking and driving, especially this generation, they’re going to be driving soon and it’s a very good message for them to get in to.”

Pelaccia was on CBC radio on the morning show to promote the event and he was joined by student Sydney Sleiman, who said she believes that the message coming from kids can make a difference.

“Basically it’s our way of preventing drinking and driving by putting messages on a bottle so when people buy liquor they know not to drink and drive from the messages,” said Sleiman.  “We’ve worked on these bags for a few weeks, it’s good to have us do the bags because our generation’s going to next for driving and it’s going to affect us too.  I want them to realize that even though we’re kids we can make a difference.”

Fellow grade 7 student Alexis Coxon says that by doing this they are showing adults that kids care too.

“It means that we’re showing adults that even though we’re not driving that we care about the lives of others and that drinking and driving is illegal and that you shouldn’t do it,” Coxon said.  “Because you could not just hurt yourself, you could hurt other drivers on the road with you.”

Many dignitaries joined in the event, including MP Jeff Watson, MPP Taras Natyshak and Mayor Wayne Hurst, each one was impressed by the messaging the students came up with, with Watson actually reading one students bag aloud to showcase the clarity of the message.

“Each and every one of you is a leader in your community right now and your messages to people today deliver two important messages,” said Watson who proceeded to read the slogan “the driver is safe when the road is dry and the road is safe when the driver is dry.

He also shared with the students that he lost a friend many years ago who was a teenager at the time to an accident with a drunk driver.

Natyshak said that the children had become teachers in their community with a powerful message.

“You have a wonderful and powerful message, especially coming from kids,” said Natyshak.  “You’re teaching adults, parents, aunts, uncles, others in the community, you’re teaching how important it is to stay safe during the holidays.

Hurst said that the students had shown remarkable initiative in their messages and that getting the word out was important.

“To get this message out, that alcohol abuse has a terrible social effect on our community is commendable,” said Hurst.


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