Pike County Schools To Receive Gary Sandifur Tobacco-Free School Award

In Local News on July 2, 2010 at 10:16 am

PETERSBURG, Ind. – Pike County Schools, for instituting a campus policy making school grounds totally smoke-free, will be honored with the Gary Sandifur Tobacco-Free School Campus Award during the school board meeting at 7 p.m. Monday, July 5, from Indiana Tobacco Prevention and Cessation (ITPC) and Pike County Tobacco Prevention Coalition.

The Gary Sandifur Award, honoring a Kokomo, Ind., man who was a life-long smoker and died at age fifty, is awarded exclusively to schools that enact comprehensive tobacco-control policies, prohibiting tobacco use by students, school staff, parents and visitors on school property and in school vehicles.  The policy must be enforced on school days and weekends, and it must encompass all events held on school property.

“By putting action behind what students hear in their health classrooms, this policy is an important step in preventing our youth from using tobacco and providing a healthy environment for students, staff, and visitors at Pike County schools,” said Sally Petty, coordinator of the Pike County Tobacco Prevention Coalition.

Lorene Sandifur, who was featured in a well-known series of statewide television advertisements telling the story of losing her husband, guided the creation of the award in order to continue delivering Gary’s message on smoking and what it did to shorten his life.  Gary Sandifur died of lung cancer due to smoking that had spread to his brain.

“I don’t want other wives or other husbands, sons and daughters to feel the pain I felt when I lost Gary,” said Lorene Sandifur.  “I hope to encourage people to never start smoking and those who are addicted, I encourage them to quit today.”

By honoring schools with an award in his name, Lorene hopes to spread his message to our most vulnerable population for tobacco initiation – youth.  An estimated 19,600 Hoosier children under age 18 become daily smokers each year,  and in 2003, 23 percent of Indiana’s high school students reported using tobacco.  

Through comprehensive tobacco-free school campus policies, students cannot smoke on school grounds or in their cars, and more importantly, parents and teachers cannot smoke in front of impressionable youth on school grounds, setting a clear example and giving a consistent message that tobacco use is a life-threatening addiction.

Gary, who had smoked all of his life, had promised Lorene and his family that he would quit smoking on his 50th birthday.  Before turning 50, however, he began experiencing headaches and dizziness.  He visited a doctor for testing, and the day before his 50th birthday, the results showed cancerous tumors in his brain.  Stage Four lung cancer had spread from his lungs to his brain.  Gary had promised his family he wouldn’t smoke after he turned 50.  He was right.

After learning that he was dying of cancer, Gary started speaking to children and teenagers about the dangers of smoking.  He wanted to get the message out to as many people as possible: that smoking was not worth the risk involved.  Gary didn’t get to finish the work he started.  After living twice as long as the doctors predicted and talking to as many kids as he could, he lost his battle with cancer.  But his wife, Lorene, decided to continue the work Gary had begun.

After appearing in ITPC’s series of statewide commercials where she told her and Gary’s story, Lorene continues to speak to children, teenagers and adults about the harmful effects of tobacco use, helping to finish the job her husband started.  The Gary Sandifur Award was created in memory and honor of Gary Sandifur and the Sandifur family, as well as the countless other Hoosier families who have been harmed by tobacco use.

The Pike County Tobacco Prevention Coalition aims to reduce and eliminate harm caused to Pike County residents by tobacco use and secondhand smoke. The coalition meets at noon the first Thursday of every month at the Pike County Chamber of Commerce boardroom. For more information, call 812-698-0232 or visit

The ITPC Executive Board was created to oversee funding from Indiana’s share of the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement from the tobacco companies. The Board oversees the entire comprehensive program, which includes media components, special youth features, enforcement, cessation initiatives and community programs in every county in Indiana. Learn more about ITPC’s efforts at or its youth movement at


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