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SWAMP program launches in Big Cypress

Aaliyah Billie, 12, James Gore, 12, and Tito Billie, 6, race around the field during a fitness activity at the SWAMP program launch in Big Cypress. (Beverly Bidney)

BIG CYPRESS — About 60 Boys & Girls Club kids enthusiastically welcomed SWAMP to Big Cypress Oct. 19 at a party filled with fun activities, life lessons and plenty of food.

SWAMP (Seminoles Without Addictions Make Progress) is led by the Center for Behavioral Health department’s Fred Mullins and will meet monthly at the club. The program, designed as a prevention outreach program for youth, is a collaborative effort of tribal departments including education, culture, recreation, health, fitness and Boys & Girls Club. Programs include prevention lessons, activities and incentive trips. The program has been active in Immokalee for seven years.

“Our goal is to build character with a mental and emotional commitment to avoid all high risk behaviors that threaten the future of the Seminole Tribe,” said Mullins, aftercare prevention counselor.

The festivities began under a tent with the “Great Pickle and Sausage Giveaway.” As the kids devoured the pickles and sausages, Mullins got their attention with a question: In what city do kids eat the most pizza? Everyone claimed to know the answer, but New York, Chicago and Hollywood were incorrect. The answer, according to Pizza Hut, is Fort Wayne, Indiana. Who knew?

Allied health program manager Suzanne Davis and health educator Jamie Diersing got the kids on their feet and running, hopping and walking backward laps around cones in the field. When the skies opened up, the group headed for the safety of the Boys & Girls Club auditorium for the rest of the program.

A rousing game of musical chairs, a lesson about setting goals and a team money grab game followed by a spaghetti dinner rounded out the event.

Mullins taught the action lesson of the day, which was all about setting goals. Once the kids were settled down, Mullins told them he was about to tell them something that will change their lives.

“Catch your dream,” Mullins said. “Your big dreams are all about you, this lesson will make your dream happen but it all begins with you. Dreams that come true don’t just happen.”

To reach a goal, everyone must have a plan and follow it, Mullins said. He outlined the steps with an interactive slide show.

Step 1 is to name the goal; “dreams should have a deadline”, Mullins said.
Step 2 is to visualize it; “picture yourself reaching the goal and living the dream, imaging you’ve already achieved it. Imagination is faster than the speed of light.”
Step 3 is to say “I can do it.”
Step 4 is to think of how to do it; “make a plan and know you are only going to get there with other people’s help.”
Step 5 is to go for it; “take action and start today, don’t just talk about it.”
Step 6 is to reward yourself for doing a good job.

The slide show showed photos of Walt Disney, Michael Jordan, Rosa Parks, Dr. Seuss, Thomas Edison, Oprah Winfrey, Bill Gates and Stephen Spielberg.

“At some point in their lives, people told each of them they couldn’t do it,” Mullins said.

After the lesson, the kids divided into teams for the money grab. A money blowing machine large enough for a person, some balloons and plenty of fake money and real cash was set up on the stage. Parent Billy Walker put in a wad of bills and the team captains got into the machine one at a time.

The balloons, funny money and cold cash circulated around the kids as they tried to grab as much as possible in just a few seconds. Any cash they held onto was shared with the team.
Before the game began, Mullins imparted one more important life lesson.

“If you don’t have a goal and a plan, you’ll be grabbing at stuff for your whole life,” he said. “Some things will be phony, like some of that money. I don’t want to see you in 10 or 20 years out there grabbing at something because you didn’t have a goal and a plan. Everyone in the Tribe is here to help you identify and achieve your goals.”

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Beverly Bidney
Beverly Bidney has been a reporter and photographer for The Seminole Tribune since 2012. During her career, she has worked at various newspapers around the country including the Muskogee Phoenix in Oklahoma, Miami Herald, Associated Press, USA Today and other publications nationwide. A NAJA award winning journalist, she has covered just about everything over the years and is an advocate for a strong press. Contact her at beverlybidney@semtribe.com.

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