Some came in their Riverside Middle School athletic gear. Others wore custom team shirts while others still showed up decked out in fake Tom Selleck mustaches and sparkling, oversized suit coats.
But all of the more than 150 Riverside students, parents and teachers who packed the school gym for a dodge ball tournament on Friday night came to tell the same message.
“We’re against the people that create tobacco and the industry around it,” said seventh-grader Mishayla Whittmeyer, 12, who helped organize the event.
The Tobacco Free Fun Night, featuring a dodge ball tournament, skits, prizes and healthy food, was organized by about 20 students in the Riverside reACT Against Tobacco Club with a little help from RiverStone Health.
“It’s about them coming to a positive, healthy, social environment that’s tobacco-free,” said Jacob Pertuit, a prevention health specialist with RiverStone who also acts as a reACT liaison. “This gets them actively involved and lets them have a great time.”
Part of a larger nationwide program, reACT — which stands for react against corporate tobacco — has clubs in five Billings schools that focus not on smokers themselves, but on anti-corporate-tobacco activities.
Eight teams of at least seven students — some of them in creative uniforms — each competed in the tournament. The bleachers of one side of the gym were packed from top to bottom with cheering fans and, each time a team took to the floor or somebody made a play, they’d go crazy.
It took the reACT club about a month and a half to organize the event. Principal Sharon Tietema said the fact that it is student organized carries extra weight.
“This is what we want,” she said. “The way that things change is through the kids. The (events) that are the most successful is when they’re truly involved, they truly did something.”
Mishayla and Carmyn Parks, who also helped organize the event, agreed. They said the plan was to find something they, and their peers, would like.
So, dodge ball it was. As an added bonus, the winners of Friday night’s tournament receive gift certificates to Rimrock Mall and will to take on a team of teachers at an upcoming school assembly, with the losers having to complete a challenge after.
“We thought that a lot of people would want to be involved so we made it a competition,” Carmyn, a 12-year-old seventh-grader, said.