Tar Wars Finds a new “home” in Peoria

While schools continued to recover and make up ground lost to the COVID-19 pandemic, some dedicated medical students found another great home to provide the important lessons about tobacco prevention to area youth.  University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria medical students taught Tar Wars by visiting the after-school program at Friendship House.  Founded in 1951, the mission of the Peoria Friendship House of Christian Service https://www.friendship.house/ is to empower families by giving them hope and a path to prosperity. Programs and services include a K-8 after-school program, English Language Support, Parent Mentoring Program and a Food Pantry supported by volunteers and donors. 

This year University of Illinois College of Medicine Peoria students, organized by FMIG leader Keila Magafas, presented Tar Wars at local schools including: St Mary’s, Peoria Academy and virtually at Concordia Lutheran School.  “After meeting Shelby from the Friendship House, it seemed like the perfect place to bring Tar Wars! The Friendship House is an impressive, non-profit organization that is truly for the community. I am constantly in awe of all the community events the Friendship House brings forth. I hope the connection between UICOMP and the Friendship House continues to grow.” summarized Magafas.

Participants who were in fourth or fifth grade then created posters about the messages they learned about living tobacco and nicotine free.  Nine posters were sent to the statewide poster contest.  Though the state winner came from another student in a different town, the Foundation wished to recognize the efforts of these young artists and the medical students who brought the lesson to them. Those posters are now immortalized in a banner which will be displayed in the gymnasium of Friendship House to provide a lasting sign of these students and their community’s commitment to a healthy, tobacco-free life. 

The students, their families and the family physicians celebrated with pizza at the Friendship House on Friday June 24.  The Tar Wars program presented each student who created a poster with a Target gift card provided by the Family Health Foundation of Illinois.  IAFP Past President Asim Jaffer, MD, FAAFP represented the Academy along with Magafas.  Members of the Bradley University Basketball teams also attended to support the kids.

“I’ve been very proud of our efforts to bring Tar Wars to local schools over the years.  I have taught it myself over the years,” Dr. Jaffer told the crowd.  “As a doctor and a dad, I’ve been a vocal advocate for policies proven to combat the tobacco industry’s efforts of targeting their products to our kids here in Peoria and across the state.  In fact, I was there with Gov. JB Pritzker when he signed the bill making 21 the legal age to purchase tobacco products.” 

Make your plan to teach Tar Wars in your community next school year.  You can visit a school or another community program for this fun lesson.  Learn more at www.iafp.com/tar-wars.