Group jumps to aid of schoolies

IN an atmosphere charged with expectation and fuelled by drugs and alcohol, strange things can and do happen during Schoolies Week.

From unwanted sex to drug and alcohol overdoses, smashed up hotel rooms, brawls and even, tragically, youth suicide, it's all become part and parcel of the annual event.

Helping teenagers survive the celebrations are the Red Frogs, a church organisation of volunteers, who patrol streets and hotel rooms all over the country during Schoolies Week.

Mostly aged between 19 and 22, they provide a sober presence amongst revellers, give out advice and support (and red frogs), walk people home from parties, help clean up hotel rooms and even cook pancakes for schoolies in their rooms.

They operate nationwide in 17 locations, looking after almost 80,000 schoolies each year.

The Frogs have had a presence in Byron Bay for the past six years, but will boost their volunteer numbers from 40 to 100 this year as the town's popularity amongst schoolies grows.

They'll be providing all their usual services, as well as helping out at the new 'hub' tent, which will act as a central assistance and information area.

Nicqui Yazdi of the Byron Underage Drinking and Drug Initiative has been part of the push to bring more Red Frogs to town, and as part of pre-schoolie preparations, brought a group of them to Byron Bay and Mullumbimby High Schools yesterday.

In a frank and often funny discussion, Red Frogs volunteer Brad Wilcockson presented Year 12 students with a 'survival guide' for Schoolies Week - wherever they might choose to celebrate, and reminded them to look out for their mates.

He told students Red Frog volunteers' sole motivation was to serve young people.

“They do it because they believe in you guys,” he said.

“You've got the world ahead of you and I'd hate to see you throw that away in a momentary lapse of reason.”



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