By Ed Brock

When he stands at the front of the classroom, Morrow Police Officer Wayne Butler has the undivided attention of every young mind in the room.

That's the key to success for the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program of which Butler is a part. Another key to the program's success is funding, and on Saturday runners in Clayton County and the surrounding area will be able to give their support to Butler and the other officers in the DARE program.

Saturday is the day for the city's "Tar and Turf" 4-mile run to benefit the DARE program.

Morrow has participated in the DARE program since 1989, Morrow Police Chief Charlie Sewell said.

"Basically the DARE officers go into the schools and they teach the students how to say no to drugs," Sewell said. "They teach them how to walk away, how to change the subject."

At B.C. Haynie Elementary School on Tuesday Butler told one class that it was OK to say no to friends and urged them to make their own decisions.

"A lot of times if we let our best friends make a decision for us it may be a decision that affects you for the rest of your life," Butler said.

The work books that Butler distributes to the DARE classes are provided by the school system, Sewell said. The money raised by the Tar and Turf goes to cover incidentals like T-shirts, pens and bookmarks that bear the DARE logo.

"Things the kids can take home with them and have reminders of the DARE program," Sewell said.

The race derives its name from the fact that its route includes paved roads and the wooded paths of Reynolds Nature Preserve on Reynolds Road. That mix of asphalt roads and shaded dirt paths makes the Tar and Turf unique and attractive, Sewell said.

"Reynolds Nature Preserve is a well kept secret," Sewell said. "The runners go past streams and under oak trees."

And this year they "added a little more turf," said Clayton College & State University track coach Mike Mead who helps to organize the technical side of the race. That's 1,000 more feet of wilderness, making the race 25 percent turf, Mead said. Running in shaded areas can be especially appealing to runners at this time of year.

And there are other changes.

"We're doing the course in reverse so it should be a little faster," Mead said.

With the new direction the third mile of the 4-mile race is downhill.

The runners will set out at 8:30 a.m. from Morrow City Hall at 1500 Morrow Road.

Members of the city's Citizen Corps, including the Citizen Emergency Response Team and the Volunteers In Police Service, will be helping with the race. Moe's Southwest Grill and Waffle House will provide food for the runners.

Door prizes will be given out including to tickets for AirTran Airlines to any destination the airline serves.

There will also be a 1-mile walk as part of the program.

The entry fee is $15. For entry forms and information, stop by the city hall or the Morrow Police Department at 6311-A Murphy Drive or by going to www.cityofmorrow.com, www.rungeorgia.com or www.atlantatrackclub.com.

Sewell said the DARE program has been successful.

"We've had a lot of students come back years later and talk to the officers. They talk about what a positive impact it made in their lives," Sewell said.