Sending A Sobering Message

Martin Amaro: ‘It’s our kids, it’s our future.’ Coco Zickos photos

Martin Amaro is working to remove alcohol-related signs in stores where youths often visit, replacing them with local photos

Martin Amaro is building a proverbial fence around the island, linking groups of people together who have the common goal of preventing alcohol abuse in children ages 12 to 17.

“The fence isn’t meant to keep things in or keep them out, but to use as a resource to make your community better in regard to alcohol and how it affects our kids and our choices we make in our lives,” he says.

Working in Life’s Choices Kaua’i (formerly the Anti-Drug Program), Amaro is the new program manager for the Strategic Prevention Framework State Incentive Grant.

The grant was designed to create and perpetuate projects for the prevention of alcohol and its exposure to the island’s keiki.

Currently, Amaro is composing coalitions of concerned citizens who want to see positive changes.

He is hoping that these groups can work together to combat alcohol abuse by abolishing advertising in places such as sports facilities.

A recent success story involving a change in advertising includes the Kapahi Menehune Food Mart, whose owners agreed to take down all alcohol promotion materials in the store.

“The idea is to take an existing business that does sell alcohol legally and change the attitude when you see that particular store,” says Amaro.

Leaders from around the island, including a group of 12 to 20-year-olds and members from Life’s Choices, redecorated the interior and exterior of the convenience store.

Pictures of Kapa’a High School athletes and panoramic Kaua’i landscapes have replaced advertising materials for alcoholic products.

The Kapahi Menehune Food Mart makeover in progress, featuring Kaua‘i athletes. Photo courtesy J, Kanna Design

“The idea was to create a separation visually and not have so much media impact on your mind when you walk in the store,” says Amaro. “Instead of the standard beer guys, it’s our kids, it’s our future.”

This was the second store makeover on the island. Last year, Kujo’s Mini Mart in Kalaheo was reportedly the first in the state to remove such point-of-sale ads, according to Amaro.

People who are over 21 already know what they want to drink before they walk into a store.

“The kids, they don’t know, they don’t need to know. They’re not old enough, they’re not mature enough physically or mentally, so why do we need to hammer it in their heads?” asks Amaro. “The signs are there to teach our kids where to get what they shouldn’t have.”

Kaua’i has a very low first-age alcohol use – 11 to 12 for boys, 12 to 13 for girls.

“We’ve got to say, ‘Hey, you know what, you’re worth more than that,'” says Amaro, formerly in sales and marketing for Kaua’i Coffee.

Even prior to his new role at Life’s Choices, Amaro was involved in keiki community service activities, including coaching football.

“Being out in the community so much, you see a lot of things that really trouble you. At a certain point, I thought I have to do something more, and the opportunity came up,” he says. “This (job) has been a fantastic transition.”

Still, when some $5 billion is spent on alcohol advertising in the United States each year, he has a difficult barrier to cross.

“Kind of hard to fight that, but we can just make these subtle changes at home – the kids are going to say thank you,” he says.

Keiki are smarter than what these advertisers are telling them, says Amaro.

“Everybody’s concerned, everybody cares. We’re all on the same point. We want to make Kaua’i better,” he says.

Call 241-4925 for more information.