"Kick the butts" of cigarettes and tobacco
More than 5,500 middle schoolers descended on Corpus Christi’s American Bank Center in February for a field day organized by MD Anderson Cancer Center Board of Visitors member Gloria Hicks. Students from 22 school districts enjoyed a break from classes to cheer the IceRays in a specially scheduled morning hockey game against the Shreveport Mudbugs. Intermission challenged the kids in a different type of competition: a chance to show their smarts when it comes to staying nicotine-free.
Students in grades 5-8 entered the 7,800-seat arena to a rousing welcome from the West Oso Independent School District dance team, drum line and cheerleaders. Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi President’s Ambassadors, cheerleaders and mascot Izzy the Islander added to the festive atmosphere, along with area businesses that provided food, items for goodie bags and in-kind services.
At intermission, experts from MD Anderson’s Behavioral Science team led an interactive program engaging students with cancer prevention tips and facts on the dangers of tobacco and nicotine use . They encouraged youths to check out the latest version of ASPIRE (A Smoking Prevention Interactive Experience), an online bilingual tool developed by MD Anderson to helps teens stay on the path of good health by being tobacco- and nicotine-free. In addition, students were encouraged to download the “Tobacco Free Teens” and “Vaper Chase” apps that inform users and non-users alike on the dangers of tobacco or nicotine products in a fun and engaging way.
Leading the effort for the fourth such field day since Hicks conceived the idea in 2010 were Alex Prokhorov, M.D., Ph.D., professor of Behavioral Science and director of the Youth and Family Cancer Prevention Program; Ashish Arya, M.D., program director; Giselle Montes, program manager; and Assol Kavtorina, program coordinator. The event was the fourth such Corpus Christi smoking prevention program.
“Over the years, we’ve had an impact on approximately 25,000 students,” says Hicks. “We focus on middle school because research at MD Anderson shows that children start to try tobacco or start smoking between the ages of 12 and 14. It’s a great opportunity to spread the word about the wonderful cancer prevention team at MD Anderson and all they do for the well-being of others.”
Bus transportation was underwritten by the John G. and Marie Stella Kenedy Memorial Foundation; the Port of Corpus Christi; Citgo Corp.; and Hicks and fellow MD Anderson Cancer Center Board of Visitors members Barry Andrews, Ben Donnell, George Finley, Diane Gates, Glenda Kane, Mel Klein and Sam Susser.
Additional support came from the Corpus Christi Hooks, the Corpus Christi Museum of Natural History, the Corpus Christi Police Department, H-E-B, Hicks Automotive Group, Hurricane Alley Waterpark, Get Air Trampoline Park, the Texas State Aquarium, the U.S.S. Lexington Museum and Whataburger.