On Saturday morning, more than a dozen Young Marines were at Hanover Square, holding up signs.

"Drug Free," one read.

"Life After Drugs," another sign read, with jail cell bars drawn on it.

Cars driving by honked in solidarity as the kids held up their signs.

The kids, members of the Hanover Area Young Marines, were helping spread the word of the dangers of substance abuse, an epidemic the county is all too familiar with.

"This is a community effort, a community thing," said Joe Despines, unit commander for the Hanover Area Young Marines. "And we have to fight it as a community."

The Young Marines is a national nonprofit youth education and service program for boys and girls, ages 8 through the end of high school, according to the organization's website.

The rally also served as a kickoff for Red Ribbon Week, a week designated to raise awareness of drug problems.

Awareness:  Alongside the Young Marines at the rally were state Rep. Kate Klunk, R-Hanover, officers from Hanover-area police departments, and members of the York County Heroin Task Force, including York County Coroner Pam Gay.

"It's really heartwarming that the younger generation realizes the need to recognize the issues," Klunk said.

Hanover Borough Police Department Officer Ryan German shared similar thoughts. German said officers oftentimes see the negative impact of substance abuse, but he added it was good to see kids in the area trying to spread the word.

"This is where it starts, with the kids," he said. German added that kids can influence other kids to stay off of drugs.

Despines said the Young Marines were well-educated on the topic of substance abuse and what they were doing was a way to combat the problem.

"We make it clear that this is our community," Despines said.

Teaching: Among the 15 Young Marines was Garett Brauning, 16, a junior at Littlestown Area High School. For one of Brauning's commendations, he was required to give four speeches on substance abuse. He decided to educate people on the hazards of tobacco use.

Brauning said he spoke to a group of Boy Scouts and three separate groups of adults to get the commendation.

"People don't know the danger (of tobacco)," Brauning said.

He said that although some of the adults weren't receptive to his speech, others were. Some adults told him they would instill his lessons in their children.

"Just being able to actually speak to people and have them listen to me, it's pretty great," Brauning said.

— Reach Christopher Dornblaser at or on Twitter at @YDDornblaser.

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