Toms River Uses Healthy Kids Day to Increase Awareness of Early Intervention Resources around Substance Use

NJHI 2016: Building a Culture of Health in New Jersey – Communities Moving to Action, Round 2 The Toms River Family Health & Support Coalition

In April, the Toms River Family Health and Support Coalition (TRFHSC) had the opportunity to take part in Healthy Kids Day at the Ocean County YMCA (the Y) alongside lots of incredible partners from the community. One of the areas that the Coalition is working to address is the substance use epidemic facing our area, with one of the goals being to increase awareness and early intervention resources for youth and parents. The Y’s Healthy Kids Day was the perfect platform for us to launch our activities.

The TRFHSC had many partners present to carry out fun, educational opportunities for all the attendees. The Toms River Police Department (TRPD) brought Fatal Vision Drug and Alcohol Impairment Simulation Goggles for kids and parents to wear while trying to attempt a variety of physical tests and activities. The goggles allow people to experience what it’s like to be under the influence and show the effects on balance, vision, reaction time and judgment. The TRPD had participants walking a line, tossing footballs, and balancing on one foot. While the kids (and parents) got a chuckle out of falling over and missing catches, it really was an important teaching moment as they realized how susceptible they are to the potentially dangerous consequences of impairment. The TRPD also set up a cone course where participants were able to ride bikes with the goggles. Let’s just say more than one or two cones were knocked down.

And finally, a large game truck was available for kids to play while wearing  the goggles. It was a truly interactive learning experience not only for the kids, but the adults as well!

In addition to all the activities run by the TRPD, Hackensack Meridian and Integrity House created a “Hidden in Plain Sight” trailer. The trailer mimics a teen’s bedroom and teaches parents how to spot signs of drug use. We had the opportunity to be inside the trailer as some of the parents came through, and it was an eye-opening experience for them. They were shocked that so many ordinary items could be warning signs. This experience was sure to have a lasting impact on the parents, and it’s something we hope to continue doing around the community.

Beyond the trailer and goggles, the Y had bounce houses, crafts, healthy snacks, and other activities for kids. There were also plenty of partners on-site providing information on their local programs and services. YMCA’s Healthy Kids Day, celebrated at nearly 1,500 Ys across the country, aims to improve the health and well-being of kids and families. It also strives to get more kids moving and learning, so they can keep up the habit all summer long – a critical out-of-school time for kids’ health. The Ocean County YMCA hosts an incredible number of programs that build a healthy spirit, mind and body for all. You can check them out by visiting

The addition of activities related to substance use disorders at Healthy Kids Day was both impactful and important. This event is just the beginning of many activities that the Coalition has planned to address the issue in Toms River. To learn more about the activities of the Coalition, like us on Facebook (Toms River Family Health & Support Coalition) or visit our website at

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Heather Barberi
Jay and Linda Grunin Foundation