The community group Families Organized to Curb the Use of Substances (FOCUS) hosted a mural painting for kids Sunday to promote substance abuse prevention.
More than 100 people showed up at Hudson Park to work on the mural, enjoy food and come together as a community.
FOCUS is a group of New Rochelle community members dedicated to providing reliable information about underage drinking and drug abuse.
A giant white canvas was set up, and kids were encouraged to paint directly on it to create a mural. The theme was "if you really knew me." The young artists were encouraged to explore the theme through text, illustration and painting.
The mural will be divided into three sections and displayed in various locations throughout New Rochelle including City Hall and the New Rochelle library.
Brooklyn artist Caleb Freese, 28, helped guide the students as they worked on the mural.
"I just want them to have fun," he said. "That's really the only reason you do art in the first place."
New Rochelle High School art teacher Amanda Tarantino-LePore was also on hand to provide artistic assistance. She said art is a great outlet for students.
"It's a way for them to express themselves without having to turn to something negative. I tried to put images in [to the mural] that would relate to the healthy aspect of FOCUS," said Tarantino-Lepore.
The end result was a vibrant work that sprung to life with bright colors and different shapes and patterns.
"I think the kids had fun," Tarantino-LePore said. "One kid was doing a total Jackson Pollock thing. There was a lot of good energy, a lot of positive energy."
In addition to the mural, a DWI simulator was on display, brought by Officer Christopher Grasso and Detective Peter Farrell of the Westchester County Police Department. They helped inform the participants about the dangers of drinking and driving.
Lori and Alan Cohen of AJ's Burgers were also on hand, serving tasty burgers and hot dogs throughout the afternoon.
"We want to engage with the community," said Cohen, "Getting involved with kids and helping them build self-esteem is important."
New Rochelle Mayor Noam Bramson also made an appearance and chatted with various people, including FOCUS Coalition Coordinator Bruce Kelly, who organized the event.
"We thought this would be a great idea because it enables kids to use their creative talents," said Kelly.
According to Kelly, FOCUS serves different roles for preventing drug and alcohol abuse. For kids, FOCUS provides education on healthy alternatives to drugs and alcohol. The group also assists merchants by offering training sessions on how to spot fake IDs.
"With parents we have a big campaign: 'Be a parent, not a friend,'" said Kelly, "Most of the kids, when you ask them where they get their alcohol, they don't say 'Joe's Deli,' they say they get it at home."
Tarantino-Lepore said the mural was a great way for FOCUS to engage students and share an important message with them.
"It's art, it's the universal language," she said, "Everybody put their own little piece of themselves into it. I loved the way it came out."