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ANAHEIM : Driving Home Anti-Drug Message

With two monster trucks looming in the foreground of the Riverdale Elementary School parking lot, the U.S. Hot Rod Assn. delivered its message in a big way to more than 400 students on Friday: Don’t use drugs.

Drivers and crew members warned the children that drugs were bad, and that if they ever wanted to reach their goals--if they ever wanted to become doctors or lawyers or the drivers of monster trucks--then they had better steer clear of drugs.

“It’s so much fun driving these things that I can’t explain it,” said Dan Runte, 30, the driver of Bigfoot, who has traveled as far as Hawaii and Japan to perform in shows. “But if I was on drugs, I’d never be able to do what I do. And what I’m doing now is something I’ve always wanted to do. So don’t use drugs.”

Lonny Childress, 28, the crew chief in charge of maintaining Snakebite, another truck, delivered a similar message.

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“My job is to make sure that every nut and bolt is on tight,” he said. “But if I was on drugs, I might make a mistake and the wheel of the truck might come off, and the truck might roll into the stands and hurt somebody.”

Santa Ana-based FBI Special Agents Herb Brown, Tim White and Gary Morley were also on hand to advise the children to stay away from drugs.

The anti-drug rally, dubbed “Race Against Drugs,” is a national program in which the FBI and the U.S. Hot Rod Assn. work together to spread the “Just Say No” message to children across the country, said Denise Haller, an organization spokeswoman.

“The drivers of these trucks and FBI agents are the children’s heroes,” Haller said. “What better way to bring the message home?”

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