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VENTURA COUNTY ROUNDUP | East County / Simi Valley

Motocross Show Has Anti-Drug Message

October 14, 2000|TRACI ISAACS

A sea of children crowds around the BMX riders as they spin, hop, jump a ramp and, finally, soar over a group of teachers nervously lying below.

"Squash 'em," yells Reid Lathem, a red-haired fifth-grader wearing a stud earring. But David Holden, 33, leader of a troupe of bicycle motocross stunt riders performing for 600 students at Santa Susana Elementary School, expertly clears the women. After the spectacle, Holden gets down to business.

"We're drug-free riders," Holden says. "Being drug free is the best choice you can make for your life."

The kids cheer.

Holden's appearance Friday was a prelude to the school's observance of Red Ribbon Week, an annual effort by schools across Ventura County to instill anti-drug messages during the week starting Oct. 22.

The show was one of many planned for the San Diego-based riders, whose five teams perform at about 600 shows a year throughout the nation. During Friday's appearance, squirming students settled down when Holden adopted a serious tone.

"Those people who offer you drugs are lying to you," Holden says. "I don't care what movies or TV tells you, they're liars."

He tells the kids about his childhood buddy who thought drugs would make him happier.

It didn't. Holden later explained that the friend, a former BMX rider, has been in and out of treatment centers for years and still struggles with an addiction to methamphetamines.

Holden made a pact with the children, asking them to raise their hands and agree to be drug free every year.

"Now," Holden said, "who wants to see big air?"

Wild cheers again.

A rider stands atop his bike seat and whizzes past the crowd, afterward climbing around the frame like a child on monkey bars.

"I can do that, but with one hand," said Nick Mariotti, a 9-year-old who enjoys BMX shows. He leans forward in his seat and shows his buddy a seated version of the stunt.

Nancy Villani, a parent who organized the show, was satisfied with students' enthusiastic response.

"I like to start the year off with a biggie," she said.

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